It’s unpredictable what will come up when the MiddlesexMD team gathers. As the holiday shopping season approached, it was REI’s #OptOutside campaign, which encourages people to skip Black Friday shopping and get outdoors, that captured our attention. That seemed to align with my [very] frequent advice to women, especially as they approach and pass through menopause: Stay active! If you haven’t been active, get active! We thought we’d ask Kate Convissor, who “haphazardly maintains a blog about her own travels at www.wanderingnotlost.org,” for a guest blog post that might inspire you to get outside and get active.
I am camped in Bugaboo Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. There is only one trail that someone who doesn’t know a carabiner from a crampon could attempt, so that’s the one I set off on. A couple hours and a lot of calories later, I stumble from an aspen forest into, literally, Paradise. I am in a large meadow covered in kelly-green ice plant and dotted with wildflowers: bright orange Indian paintbrush, pearly everlasting, purple aster. Rivulets of blue water twist through the meadow. In the far distance, the Bugaboo Glacier flows around a rocky spire and down the mountain, imperturbable, as it has for millennia.
I am no extreme adventurer. I grew up in Detroit; my family was neither athletic nor outdoorsy. As a young mom, I spent more time looking out the window than venturing out the door. All that changed in my late 40s when my then-husband, two youngest kids, the dog, and I embarked on an 18-month road trip.
For the first time in my life, except for sleeping, I basically lived outdoors. I spent weeks in environments as foreign and varied as ocean beaches, deserts, mountains, prairies. My field guides became tattered as I paged through them to name trees, birds, and blossoms I had never seen before. I hiked for miles and learned the basics of survival—never leave without 1. Sufficient water; 2. A good hat; 3. Eye and skin protection; and 4. Enough time to get there and back before sunset.
That trip was fifteen years ago. The kids have grown up; the dog has died; the husband has moved on. But I have not lost my desire, almost my need, to be outside. I just like to smell the breeze, listen to the birds and the snuffling of creatures, and to stretch my legs on trails and country roads. It quiets the mind, aligns the cells, and soothes the soul. It keeps joints lubricated and muscles toned; it keeps blood pumping through clear arteries. If the information on MiddlesexMD is correct, it keeps life good and makes sex better.
Which brings me to Black Friday.
I am absolutely confounded when I hear about people camped in front of WalMart on Black Friday (Camped! When there are places to camp that will take your breath away!), fights in the aisles over a television set, or stampedes that actually kill people.
In the teeth of this feeding frenzy, REI, the giant outdoor gear store, has launched what has amounted to an anti-consumer movement: #OptOutside. On Black Friday, all the REI stores throughout the nation close, and every employee is paid to get outside for the day. All the rest of us are encouraged to participate.
This is the kind of commercialism I can really get behind.
I am in my mid-sixties now. Like all of us, I recognize that unless I keep moving, pretty soon I won’t be able to so easily. Keeping the mind and body limber takes some intentionality these days.
So this Black Friday, I challenge you NOT to drive to the mall, fight the crowds, buy stuff neither you nor anyone else needs. Why consume time, gas, and your own energy and peace of mind when you can be outdoors? Why not accept the #OptOutside invitation? Find a patch of earth that has some nature on it. Find a trail or a park or even a pleasant neighborhood. And walk. Just walk.
Then do it again the next day.
Me? I’m going to hike the Reid Lake Trail in a national forest just north of me. And you?