Growing up, I used to joke that I was a city girl. Granted, I did grow up in the suburbs surrounding Pittsburgh, but I was always more comfortable with my feet firmly planted on the asphalt of a nicely paved sidewalk.
As a young girl, my experiences with the natural world were limited to the summer days I spent romping around the in the trees behind my house with the other neighborhood kids and the summer trips we took to the coast. I was fascinated with weather and wildlife and I loved going to the zoo, but when my parents would make the suggestion that we go camping as a family I also shied away from the invitation.
Why would I want to spend my weekend in the hot, humid forest surrounded by bugs and dirt with no toilets, no air conditioning, no electricity?
To a young girl that sounded like an absolute nightmare.
So I never did go camping. I never fished or hunted or hiked or gardened. I was much more at home curled up on the couch with a good book and a cup of tea.
That is, until I adopted a dog.
With a dog, I now was responsible for bathroom breaks and walks and playing with this tiny fur ball, all of which often, if not all the time, involved being outside.
At first, it was miserable. Most days it was either too hot or too cold and if the temperature wasn’t unbearably uncomfortable it was rainy, or windy, or snowing.
At first, I searched for every excuse to limit the amount of time I spent outdoors with my dog.
But one bright, spring day while I was out walking Bean, I opened my eyes and really started to enjoy the beauty of the world around me. The sky was a brilliant, beautiful shade of blue. The air was warm. The flowers were beginning to poke through the soil and the trees were budding. I was happy and for once I felt at peace.
That summer, when the rain stopped and the trails dried up, I went hiking for the first time with Bean in a nearby park.
It was an experience I will never forget. Bean was just as excited as I was too. There was so much to smell and see and for me I was just able to sit back and enjoy the beauty of nature and the time spent with my dog. I took her hiking several times after that and I often go hiking with my friends or my sister when its too warm to bring the pups along.
That same summer I also fell in love with the beauty of the Youghigheny river. (If you’ve never checked out Ohio Pyle and you live near Pittsburgh I definitely recommend making the trip).
The next summer I purchased a kayak and began to explore the local water ways.
Now, I love to be outdoors. I appreciate the beauty and simplicity of nature. When I’m outside I feel at peace. I feel happy. I feel like I could conquer the world. I come up with my best ideas when I’m outdoors. It is the creative epicenter of my life.
And I never would have taken the leap and fallen in love without a dog to nudge me out the door.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our little worlds. We are used to the comfort and safety of four walls, of air conditioning, and heat, and electricity. But there is a world of beauty of there. A world that is just ripe for exploring.
So as my dog once challenged me, I now challenge you to put down the phone, shut off the TV, hell even close the book and step outdoors. Breath in the fresh air. Feel the warm sun beat down on your skin. Admire the beauty the surrounds you.
Fall in love with the natural world again.