I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why, when we visited family in suburban Cleveland over the holidays, my family and I were as sedentary as hibernating bears.
We’d leave the house for periods of play—like pulling the new Radio Flyer wagon, heavy with little ones, around the yard. We’d walk to the car to drive somewhere to buy something we probably didn’t need. And we watched far more TV than usual. As much as I love them, I couldn’t wait to come home.
Most winter days here, we’re up before the sun (I’d love to change that, boys). We collect eggs and feed the chickens. We haul, split and stack firewood. We feed the woodstove three times a day. Ditto for our hungry bellies; we (sometimes grudgingly) cook all of our meals, mostly from simple, natural foods.
And it’s at this time of year, when snowstorm after snowstorm lays lovely layers of winter’s cloak down all around us, that we snow blow, shovel and rake our roof to keep the ice at bay.
I realize that this work, the work that we’ve taken on by choice so we could feel more connected to the land and a simpler way of life, takes time and effort. It’s not optional for us, either. If we don’t clear snow, we can’t leave our hilly driveway. Same goes for the roof; ice dams and leaks are inevitable if we don’t lighten the load. And heating with wood keeps the cost of heating our drafty 60-year-old log cabin in check.
Naturally, it’s far more effort than simply tweaking the thermostat. But all of these “chores” keep us busy and productive. It just dawned on me that they also force me outside for at least part of the day. And that’s a boon for my mental health now, when daylight is in such short supply.
Experts agree: It really feels good. The conveniences of modern life can make it almost unnecessary to leave the house when the weather is less than wonderful and we’d rather not. No need to move? Even the most active among us can sink into complacency. That’s an unhealthy place for all of us—especially children, who are forming lifelong habits.
Getting out there, simply because we have to, is as good a reason as any to do it. Besides, it helps me justify eating homegrown eggs and bacon as often as my heart desires.