“You kids need to get outside. Go play in the great outdoors!” Mommy Jean, circa 1957
When the sun slides low in the sky, I venture outside. Emerging from the cool air conditioned comfort of the house, the first breath shocks; muggy summer air hits my lungs like a wave of warm soup.
Standing under long shadows on the drive way, I listen to the symphony that erupts in the woods; katydids, in cacophonous, pulsing unison, songbirds trilling goodnight and the grunting croaks of romantic bull frogs hidden in the tangle of wild ginger, English ivy and ferns.
Coarse grass pricks the soles of my bare feet as I wander off toward the garden. Daisies glow like white stars against purple basil, nearly black in dwindling light. The deer, so pesky yet beautiful, have decapitated most of the lilies and hosta. I hope they don't move on to the Black Eyed Susans tonight.
As my skirt brushes gray green foliage, a pungent aroma rises from the tomato vines. I love that smell! I pop a firm red cherry tomato in my mouth. It’s still warm. Rolling it around on my tongue, I bite down on velvety flesh and savor the explosion of sweet sour juice and pulpy gelatinous seeds. Ummmm. Delicious!
Alone under the dome of the darkening sky, surrounded by the hypnotic thrum of katydid song, inhaling the perfume of the teeming green woods and garden, I stand enthralled, made small by the sensory overload and grandeur of nature.
My air conditioned house is delightfully cool and comfortable and I’m awfully glad to have it, especially in these Dog Days of summer. But there’s no poetry, no wild splendor in the controlled comfort of small, closed rooms. I seek and find wonder, enchantment, and mystery in the untamed realm of what my mother called the 'great outdoors.’
Mommy Jean was right: Kids of every age (even really old kids like me) need to 'play in the great outdoors.' Truth be told, 'the great outdoors' is cathedral, circus and school to me. I need no other.
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