I’ve never been much of an outdoor person. When I was a kid in rural east Texas, my dad used to have to make me go outside, to “appreciate” the world. In teenage protest, I once got two extension cords and brought the television and VCR with me into the yard, sitting under a tree and watching “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” on repeat instead of looking up into the towering pine trees. Other times I just took a book with me, equally removing myself from the world around me but a bit more pretentiously.
For over a decade—college, marriage, career—blessed with a nonjudgmental wife, I was free from anyone reminding me not to squander my opportunities to be outdoors.
And now I have two sons of my own, and my oldest—only three (or already three, depending on how you see these things)—has taken up the mantle of Spokesman for Outdoor Enjoyment. He longingly looks out the window early in the morning and asks me when we’re going to go outside. And despite my own preference to take in nature’s beauty from within four walls, I tell him, “Soon.” I tell him, “We have to at least eat breakfast first.” And then I slather him in sunscreen and take him into our tiny—by my ingrained rural standards—backyard and watch him enjoy the hell out of it.
Because they’re right—my dad and my son—as much as I wish they weren’t. When the weather even remotely allows it—and in Chicago the allowing can get pretty remote—we should be out there in that weather experiencing it, without an extension cord. (Zach Freeman)