By Tim E. Renzelmann
As promised (warned) in the previous “Local Cancer Community Update”, here is Part 2 of 2 of the “Play Matters” article (read Part 1 here):
As I was chronicling some recent Survive, Thrive & Be Fit” activities in the previous issue of this update... several “lie lessons” came to mind:
Leah’s reference of the John Muir quote while “Navigating Along the Cancer Journey” orienteering outing (“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”) reminded me that time in nature is good for not just the body... but the mind and heart and spirit as well!
The clouds and drizzle at the start of our “Hiking Along the Cancer Journey” hike that, shortly after, turned to clear skies and a beautiful sunset, reminded me of Wisconsin’s whimsical weather (and the foolishness of letting a forecast disrupt plans)!
The “Hiking Along the Cancer Journey” overnight backpack outing reminded me of the beauty of the outdoors, even in the darkness! Spend a night in the woods and see how illuminating the experience can be! And let’s never forget the beauty that comes before (sunset) and after (sunrise) every dark night!
The “Play is Healing” event reminded me of the power of play (especially outdoor play) and the importance of tapping into the child inside us. And there is no better way to do that than to spend time with children and do what children do!
But, as I reflect back, it was that eagle that perched itself above us and watched down on us as we practiced “Qigong for Cancer Survivors” then flew past during the “Gentle Yoga for Cancer Survivors” session that pretty much summed up all of these lessons! (Photo submitted by Mary Schueller)
I am very much a “city boy”! Other than some car camping experiences in my younger days (and by younger, I am referring to anything prior to about the age of 47), the bulk of my time outdoors was very urban and revolved around running, mostly on city streets.
That changed in 2009 when I rather unexpectedly discovered kayaking which, in the years that followed, opened me up to a variety of other activities including hiking/backpacking, snowshoeing and canoeing that all involved multi-day outings and adventures. I had discovered the thrill of outdoor adventures and I was like a kid in a candy store as I immersed myself in my new-found playground that is the Great Outdoors!
I’m certainly not claiming to be a seasoned outdoorsman or adventurer, but I have had some amazing and awe-filled experiences that have allowed me to better appreciate at least some of what the Great Outdoors has to offer! And it has changed me!
Perhaps one of the most adventurous outdoorsmen that I know, and who has guided me over the years, is my friend and fellow cancer survivor Tom Friedrichs (whom some of you have met). When I asked Tom if it would be okay to mention him in this article, he responded, “As long as it’s for effect/affect so to speak, rather than a main focus overstuffed with gratuitous accolades... Then I’m good with it.” So, I won’t even attempt to describe some of his incredible and amazing adventures or his deep respect and keen understanding of nature and the outdoors.
Suffice it to say, he is someone who enjoys not only the beauty but also the challenge of spending time outdoors, and he makes it a priority.
“I’m not sure I am a shining example to follow,” Tom confessed, “shirking duties so I can go out and play. Meanwhile, the grass (and weeds) are long, laundry is piling up, and friends and family are wondering where I have gotten off to the last month, or months.”
The reason I mention Tom is because, as I started spending time in the Great Outdoors, he provided much guidance and useful advice and he stressed what I have come to find as one of the greatest lessons, not just for spending time outdoors, but also for how to live my life!
Anyone who has spent time outdoors has probably realized that along with the incredible beauty of nature comes looming challenges and risks. A calm day can turn windy, clear skies can turn stormy, warm days can turn cold, dry days can turn wet, flat waters can turn angry... and sometimes a calm, clear, dry, warm, day on flat waters can turn into a windy, stormy, wet, cold day on angry waters (especially on Lake Michigan)... all at once... all in an instant. That is the nature of the Great Outdoors. That is the nature of nature.
But if you spend enough time out there, facing whatever Mother Nature may want to throw at you, “it” will happen. You never know when “it” will happen! You never know what “it” will be!
“It” could be a sight, a sound, a smell even. “It” could be a feeling or an experience. Whatever “it” is, you will know when “it” happens! And “it” can touch you somewhere deep down inside – so deep it reaches a space within you that you never even knew existed. “It” can, and “it” probably will change you!
And once you experience “it”, you will want to find “it” and experience “it” again... and again... and again!
“You just gotta put yourself out there!” Tom would often encourage and advise!
Of course, “it” won’t happen every time. And you can’t plan for “it” to happen. “You just gotta put yourself out there” while being open, alert and aware for “it” to happen!
“It” can be big and majestic and spectacular. Or “it” can be quiet and soft and subtle. And what is probably most interesting of all... after you experience “it” and begin to recognize “it”, “it” seems to happen more and more and more. You begin to understand what Thoreau meant when he wrote, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
Suddenly, the windiest days aren’t as windy, the stormiest days aren’t as stormy, the coldest days aren’t as cold, and the worst of days aren’t so bad anymore! Even though there is never a guarantee that “it” will happen... there is always the chance and the hope that “it” will happen!
And so it is with life! Whether you are indoors or out! “You just gotta put yourself out there!”
It’s simple advice... but simple is seldom easy!
Get up! Get moving! Do something! Do something new and different! Meet new people! Try different things! Go different places!
Not everything will be thrilling, or exciting, or even fun! There will be challenges and difficulties. There will be plenty of the ordinary and uneventful. Maybe even dull and boring.
“You just gotta put yourself out there!”
If you don’t... “it” won’t ever happen!
But if you do... Ahhhhh... If you do, “it” could be amazing!!!
See attached PDF for additional photos.View PDF