Pam and I are trying out this grandparenting thing. It comes highly recommended. Levi is going to be two in September. He’s the cutest kid ever. I might be biased.
Daughter Anna asked if I could watch Levi for an afternoon while she visited friends in New Ulm. It turned out to be the Sunday of Bavarian Blast. Perfect.
After the parade, I spent the afternoon toddling around the fairgrounds with Levi. Levi’s new favorite band is the Bockfest Boys. He was quite taken by the Narren, especially Gertie the Goose. He ended up following the dance line with them under the big tent, something of a mini-celebrity. I enjoy German music and I enjoy Schell’s beer. It was about a perfect afternoon for old grandpa.
Of course, we were outside all day. That was part of the attraction for Levi. He is that age where he wants to go out as often as someone will take him. Whenever we get together it is my role to take him out to the yard or the park or for a walk. Levi doesn’t care if it’s twenty below or the heat index is 100. He’s ready to put on his boots, sneakers, or bare feet and head out.
I remember this age with our kids. They were drawn to the outdoors, almost magnetically. One of the first words Anna said was, “tside,” an abbreviated form of “outside.” She walked around all day, demanding, imploring, pleading, “Tside. Tside.”
You can’t just send them out the door alone at this age. So, I spent hours toddling around the farm with Anna. Their curiosity is voracious at this age. Every rock, bug, weed, puddle, and bird is worth consideration and exploration and play if you can pick it up. There is the temptation as a parent to see this as wasted time, especially when there are a hundred things you’re supposed to be doing. Of course, it is not wasted. This is exactly what parenting is.
As time passes that urge to go “tside” fades. There even comes a day when you’ve got to kick them out of the house.
But for most of us the urge never goes away completely. I’ve got friends who are hunters, golfers, bikers, and gardeners. For each of these the chance to be outdoors is a big part of it. I am fortunate to spend the majority of my time outside. Usually I’m glad for that. Even on the worst of winter thirty-below-with-a-howling-wind days, I make myself go out for a while.
We live in these two worlds. “Inside” is generally safer, constant, and predictable. We are blessed to have places to go into that are heated and cooled. Not everyone in the world does. I sure like my home. It’s just not that interesting a place to be if you are two-years old.
“Outside” can range about 130 degrees in temperature around here with winds anywhere between still and tornadic. It can certainly be unsafe. Most days we can get ourselves comfortable layering coats, jackets, sweaters, etc. But outside is often dramatically different than coming into the house, knowing it will be 70 to 72 degrees.
I said inside is predictable, and that’s a good thing. The hot water in our shower turning cold is about all the surprise we want in our homes. Outside is filled with surprises if we are paying attention. Many of these can be delightful and even awe-inspiring: a sunset of blazing color, unique clouds, wild flowers. The thing is you have to be out there to experience them. If you put in the time, you will be rewarded.
This time of year, I walk a lot of soybean fields in my part time inspecting fields. There can be a lot of sameness in a 320-acre soybean field for sure. Then comes a year like this when I am surrounded by small orange butterflies. I found out that these are painted lady butterflies, and they actually lay their eggs on soybean plants. Whatever the conditions are in 2017, they are right for an explosion of them. I have had dozens of them flitting about me.
Then there are fireflies just before dark hovering above soybean fields, another unique thing to 2017. A week ago, I was finishing my work in a field as fireflies began to surround me. Meanwhile in the northern horizon, there was lightning from a far-off thunderstorm. It was an amazingly beautiful scene. And one I got to see only because I happened to be there.
(Of course, I can’t talk about the outdoors without mentioning our shared nightmare that was indoor baseball. For thirty years the Twins played in an environment that was as interesting as that of your living room. As a state, we are just now recovering from the trauma.
I have been to Target Field when it was thirty degrees; that was against the Miami Marlins of all teams. I have been there when it was ninety and muggy. I have been there when it was gorgeous, when I could barely keep myself from singing out the old song, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame, for a ballgame, today…” I’ll take any of those days over the sterile 70 degrees of the Metrodome. There, I promise never to speak of the place again.)
If you look at old articles on health, there is often an admonition to go outdoors. It was considered therapeutic and good for all manner of ailments. I suppose houses of long ago would have had wood or coal smoke in the winter and been hot and stuffy in the summer. Today, we know there are benefits from the vitamin D of sunlight. I’ve read too about measurable positive effects on our brain waves.
In speaking with friends about the outdoors, I hear references to seeing God in nature. There is a reverence as they mention being on a lake fishing or in the woods hunting. We know God is in our house and our workplace, but it is not the same as being in his Creation. There is the chance to see how you fit in to that, a chance for perspective.
Who knows what is in the mind of a small child like Levi? But who knows that he isn’t feeling the Creator’s presence out in that big world that is so new to him? For him and all of us, it’s good to go “tside.”