It's hard to categorise what the 'outdoors' is; what it isn't. It's everywhere, yet sometimes so hard to find. The true outdoors I mean. For some reason, the small, dirt trodden patches of grass outside tube stations don't count. Not the small pots of heather on the middle of coffee shop tables. Not macrame ferns hanging above the shelves in Urban Outfitter. You can't contain it in a single word, a single frame, a single shopping bag. The outdoors is something bigger.
Perhaps it's the result of growing up among a patchwork of fields. To be indoors at the weekend was quite frankly NOT allowed in my childhood home. Occasionally, and my parents would argue that it wasn't infrequent at all, I would moan and moan about having to go on long walks. Once I point blank refused to go any further during a hike in Herefordshire, so sat down on a tree stump, arms wrapped around my legs with an upside down smile. 'Ok, Abi, we're going, byeeeeeeeee' they said, thinking I'd totter along after them. I didn't though. Nope. I was done with walking.
I've since recognised that here's something powerful in being outdoors. About being truly outdoors. Not walking to the bus stop but being present right there outside with no distraction other than the cling-film wrapped sandwiches and kettle chips in your rucksack.
Why do I love the outdoors?
Let me count the ways. It's where you rush home from work on a Friday to pull the camping bag out from under the bed and check to see if the night light batteries still work. Where you cram four people, two tents and a dog into a hatchback before driving out into the moors for a weekend. Where there's no network signal and your phone is dead after your night light battery really did run out and you spent three nights washing by iPhone torch.
It's where you ask the campsite attendant the best route to the pub but decide on a 'shortcut', which ends up in the whole gang crawling along a tree trunk in order to navigate a stream. Where your buddy holds down the barbed wire and you clamber over with an over-cautious hop. Where someone always, always slips in the mud with the inevitable clean bowl of washing up. It's where you'll have the best sleep of your life. There really is nothing like being perfectly warm and listening to the soft pitter-patter of rain drops on canvas.
The smell of hot coffee and dew mingled together with the promise of an exciting day. The soft pawing of hooves passing by your head when a downpour forces you back to the shepherd's hut for a small reprieve. Have we got time for a slice of thick bread and a wedge of cheese? Always. It's not being angry when you wake up at 5am because the birds are performing a sarcophony of noise outside. It's wearing wellies over your pyjama bottoms. It's a top knot and bare face. It's a sharp breeze that pulls the nearest loved one into a warm embrace; hair whipping into knots around you both.
It's an escape and a return. That feeling of being grounded. Of belonging. It's reading the clouds, watching rippling meadow grass, listening to waves tumble over shingle, telling the time by the length of your shadow.
It's that snatched image on a family walk: parents stood atop a sand dune with similar looking fleeces that they've already teased each other about. It's comparing leaves, flowers, moss, petals and trees wherever you are in the world. There's four different kinds of moss on this wall! We don't have this back home! It's not knowing what time it is. Not caring what time it is. It is us stripped back.
It is where living happens.
This post is my entry for the Canopy and Stars #CSCollective competition. Because who doesn't want to earn 'Year of Wild' badges to sew onto blankets like the best adult brownie group ever?!
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