We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So, when we say that we have lost our connection to Nature, we have lost our connection to ourselves.
It rained several days in the past few weeks in Vegas. It is NOT a common occurrence. One of the days, when it was raining particularly hard, the girls asked if we could go for a walk in the rain. Instead of saying it was too cold (it was only 39 degrees), I said yes. We got bundled up and put on our rain boots, and went for a walk all around the neighborhood in the freezing, cold rain. You cannot see how much water was in the streets in this photo, but it was 4-6 inches of water in some places, and the gardens were flooded over the sidewalks. That day, there were streets closed in downtown Las Vegas due to a couple feet of water in some areas.
As we walked block after block in our neighborhood, I noticed people were looking at us strangely as they drove past us walking in the pouring rain and at the girls splashing and jumping in the water. There was not a single person out of doors, other than us. The girls were unphased by the cold and blowing rain. Smiles and squeals of delight escaped from them, as they ran around in the rain. At first, it was the novelty of being outside in the rain. Then it just turned into normal play, albeit wet. It could have been 95 degrees and sunny as they rode bikes and played on the swingset, they did not care.
Of course they got wet, needed to completely change clothes and their shoes took two days to dry. But who cares? The benefits of playing outside in Mother Nature - no matter her temperament - far outweigh the annoyance of having to change clothes and soggy boots (they literally poured water out of their boots haha).
As I watched them, I began to think. When was the last time I let myself freely walk in the rain? No dashing, no trying to take cover? With no care for my hair; no worries about getting my clothes wet or ruining my makeup. When was the last time I welcomed the wet air to coat my skin? Had it been decades since I tipped my mouth to the sky, letting the droplets prick my tongue? When have my toes come to the edge of a puddle and instead of leaping over it I picked up both feet and bounded into the water?
I went in. Playing in the rain is fun as a kid – it is freeing as an adult.
While it can be a struggle sometimes to engage in the same play as my children (I can only sit on the floor and play tea party for so long; can only build so many fairy cottages) playing in the rain knows no age. There are no rules to follow, no pieces to find, no parts to work. I do not have to pretend to enjoy playing along or fake interest. My three-year-old enjoys the rain just as much as my seven-year-old, just as much as my eight-year-old, just as much as this 40-year-old. Everyone is on equal ground, when that ground is wet and they are dripping. Since that day I not only agree to the requests of playing out in the seldom-seen rain, I have suggested it on the few other rainy days that followed this last week.
As I sat down to write about the fun my kids (and I) have outside in the rain I thought about making it a list. Then, I realized that the beauty of playing in the rain is the lack of structure and the infinite list of possibilities. Hand the children an umbrella and within five minutes it will be overturned on the ground as they explore the wet earth. The beauty of playing outside in the rain is the experience itself.
So much of our world is changing, and not for the better. If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it.
So try it. Do what our parents did: send your children outside. In all kinds of weather. Even better, go with them. Reconnect.
For further reading, I love this short article, on some of the benefits of playing the rain for children, from our beloved Free Forest School.