October is that weird month where the rest of the country seems to be cooling down, all dewy mornings and crunchy golden autumn leaves, while here we get unseasonably warm heat waves and yearn for pushing our hands through the long sleeves of a cable knit sweater or slipping boots over our ankles.
In other words, it’s hot. And when you’ve had three solid months of hot weather, it tends to get a little old. We’re kind of over the water parks and swimming pools and popsicles and beaches by now. Our electricity bills are through the roof, the hum of the air conditioner running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We’re ready to ditch our shorts and flip-flops and sunscreen in exchange for some rain boots and temperatures below ninety degrees.
Despite the heat, we’ve been getting out to explore nature trails and our favorite wild gardens, getting lost in the cool shade of oak groves and hunting for any signs of autumn in our midst. Needless to say, we’re dripping wet with sweat by the end of our little hikes and swatting bugs off our sticky shoulders and faces. But where else would my boys be able to spot a slate-colored buck with giant, twisted antlers crossing their path or chase after cottontail rabbits who scatter beneath their feet, only trying to blend in with their surroundings. I cherish these times with them, when we can shed the four walls of our air-conditioned, urban existence and attempt to blend in with nature, just like those bunnies.
When I was a child, my dad, a nature-lover himself, led us on hikes and camping trips where we navigated trails and crossed creeks, fallen tree trunks our bridges. We pitched tents under the deep purple of mountain night skies, bathed in chilly, bubbling rivers and cooked our breakfast over Coleman stoves. He is an adventurer at heart and there is still a sliver of that in my own blood, yet I often let fear and anxiety get the best of me. We’ve yet to camp as a family because of all the “what ifs” I constantly come up with to talk myself out of taking most perceived risks in life. What if someone tries to rob us at our campsite? What if a bear decides to have us as a late night snack? What if a mountain lion attacks? What if a Lyme-disease carrying tick wants to use us as its host? What if, what if, what if…?
What if the statistics prove my fears wrong in every direction? Because they do. I mean, there have been less than twenty confirmed mountain lion attacks in my state since 1890. It’s more dangerous to buckle my children into their car seats and drive our SUV to a hiking site, than it is to go on the hike itself. The idea that a mountain lion would attack us is absurd. Yet, I still have these fears — the “what ifs” that make me such an overly cautious mother, they keep me from being as adventurous as I’d like to be with my boys.
I think it’s time to change that. I think it’s time for me to leave my comfort zone and get back that same sense of adventure I had as a child, so that I can instill that thirst in my own children.
It’s time to get outside, in more ways than one.