Thirty-some years ago, when I was a single mom with little children, my lofty dreams for our future seemed permanently on hold as I coped with a series of low-paying jobs, an early 1900 wood-heat-only uninsulated farmhouse, and broken-down “vintage” cars. The floor of my 1958 Rambler station wagon was so rusted through in several places that I covered the biggest hole with the flattened lid of a garbage can. After the children watched me drive over it several times, we patched the hole in the floor. My 8-year-old daughter announced, “There, good as new again.” My children were raised without an indoor toilet and other necessities like a television, so my make-do philosophy ended up being part of their DNA also.
The urge to find relief from the ups and downs of such a hardscrabble life finally grabbed me in the middle of the night in the dead of winter. I snagged a pillow and a down sleeping bag I’d sewn when I was in my 20s, and leaving my children sleeping safely in their beds, I went into my backyard.
I made myself a bed on one of those silly, cheap, plastic chaise lounges beneath my children’s bedroom windows and settled in, still within earshot. Once the magical warmth of down feathers kicked in and I quit shivering, I noticed my new ceiling: millions upon millions of stars, the whole universe, galaxies and beyond.
Almost immediately, the round-and-round chatter in my head started shifting gears. I remember how beautiful the moon looked. “Good grief,” I said to myself, “my problems aren’t more important than the moon.” I felt diminished in a way that gave me immediate relief from the small stuff that tends to loom larger than life when you lose perspective and man-made walls and concerns close in on you.
As our lives become more and more hectic, more modern and hi-tech, it becomes increasingly difficult to spend time outdoors in nature’s clearinghouse, but outside is a lifeline. Our evolutionary molecules crave it. Children especially need it. It’s a simple solution to most of what ails us. It’s no wonder people fantasize that someday they’ll cash in their chips and buy a farm.