Greenpoint: Winter’s on the way, don’t spend it inside

We had a glorious, summery week in the beginning of November, a reprieve and a delay from the cold weather we knew would be coming back.

And as long as it was warm, people took advantage of the chance to be outside. We had one more Sunday dinner on the lawn, one more week with our Sunday dinner guest before we have to move indoors and lose the weekly company.

Friends were hiking our local mountains, others traveling north for one more warm-weather trip up a bigger mountain. The bicyclists were out, the goats slept outdoors.

During the pandemic summer, people took advantage of the outdoors to find activities that didn’t involve being near too many people. Kayak and bike sales soared, as did visits to nature trails and local parks. Camping sites filled up as families looked for safer ways to take vacations. So many people took to the popular mountain trails that overuse — and social distancing — became a problem.

The trick will be to keep it all going once it gets cold.

When my friend’s three kids were little — 4, 7 and 9 — she moved to Sweden for a year and we got to compare how our different schools handled winter. My kids were in the same age range and for us, if it was below about 40 degrees, recess was canceled.

In Sweden, the schoolchildren got outdoors twice a day, no matter how cold or snowy. “They need fresh air!” my quickly acclimated friend said. “They put on their boots and hats, their coats and mittens, and they play. It makes sense.”

It certainly made sense to me, more sense than keeping active kids cooped up indoors for half the school year.

I’ve seen half a dozen articles lately about a concept popular in the Nordic countries: “friluftsliv,” or open-air living. It’s basically that same Swedish school idea, that it’s healthy and invigorating to spend time outdoors every day, no matter what the weather. That means morning bike rides and lunchtime walks, even in winter, or spending time in the woods or on urban trails, year-round.

It’s not a new concept. It was popularized in the mid-1800s by Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian poet and playwright, who felt spending time in nature was important for physical and spiritual health.

And we need to take care of our health. This pandemic is not easing up. Cases are rising, hospitalizations are rising, deaths are rising. We’re seeing a return to restrictions on indoor gatherings. Normal is not coming back anytime soon.

So it might be time to figure out how you’re going to keep enjoying the outdoors, all winter long. Because we can’t just stay inside, working on our computers.

Make a plan. Schedule walking time on your work calendar. Get you skates sharpened. Check the bindings on your snowshoes. Get your cross-country skis in shape. Make sure your have warm walking boots.

Winter’s coming and there’s no reason to view it through the window.

Greenpoint normally appears every other Sunday, but I got off schedule by being sick last week. It will appear next on Nov. 22, and resume its every-other-week schedule after that. Reach me at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions are mine and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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