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My nine-year-old is covered with mosquito bites, bruises and scratches. From the time she arrives home from school until I call her for dinner, she’s AWOL — running through woods, building forts out of sticks, catching toads … .
To hear some parents tell it, the fact that I haven’t a clue exactly where my nine-year-old is for an hour or more at a time is evidence of poor parenting, if not outright criminal neglect. And with a recent arrest in the cold case of six-year-old Etan Patz (the first missing child to have his face on a milk carton), this sentiment increasingly runs high.
The street you live on, your neighbor’s garage or even your own back porch probably has one: a light that goes on when it gets dark. Most likely, it was installed with the hope that it would make your neighborhood a safer place to live.
The conventional wisdom is that better outdoor lighting deters criminals — those who would do their dastardly deeds in the cover of darkness. But whether or not the facts bear that out, we do know that lighting up the night eradicates something else: the ability to see the stars in the night sky.
I spent part of the holidays in Los Angeles this year, surrounded by a sea of asphalt and traffic sprawling for hundreds of square miles. Shuttling between relatives and friends on the maze of 14-lane freeways, I soon felt spiritually exhausted by the visual din of billboards, power lines, parking lots, storefronts, neon signs and cars blowing past at 80 mph.
When I was growing up in damp western Washington, I remember many occasions where my dad insisted we kids leave the TV and spend time outside. It may have been gray and drizzly, but he knew there was something valuable about fresh air and green spaces. I usually didn’t need much convincing. I have fond memories of long walks in the woods with my dog, riding my bike and watching waves roll in to the beach on Puget Sound.
The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and the idea of schedules freeing up is around the corner. This is the time of year when we venture out of the gym after months of staring at the same treadmills and elliptical trainers. There are tons of fun and exciting activities to take part in as the weather changes that burn calories and tone your muscles. Swimming, cycling, hiking, running, tennis, golf, basketball, softball, volleyball, canoeing, kayaking … the list is endless. The key is to find activities you enjoy so that you will keep moving!
As Earth Day’s 40th birthday approaches, I think it’s a good time to take pause and consider the small people in our lives who stand to inherit a pretty big planetary mess. And while I, in sincere optimism, try to avoid the “doom and gloom” that oftentimes tags the questionable state of our planet, it’s important to note that our children and children’s children will be positioned to make important decisions based on the action (or inaction) that we big people take today.
But an alternate Hawaii exists, offering the active nature-lover an idyllic tropical escape from winter’s grip. The Garden Isle of Kauai is lush and laid back, high on beauty and outdoor adventure, low on pretension and crowds. And low on cost, too, with many free and inexpensive ways to explore its natural treasures.
“We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.” — Henry David Thoreau