Light Cascading From the Sky in the Darkness of Winter

The moon playing a game of peek-a-boo during a morning ski jaunt on Riveredge trails.

For many of us, winter can be a challenge. Not just slippery surfaces or shoveling snow or driving with greater care, but the lack of sunlight can make these the most trying months. Like any of the seasons, paradoxes abound in winter. Despite being the season of the longest darknesses, snow falling from the sky reflects light, effectively brightening those very twilights.

Personally, I used to have a hard time with winter. Fall reminded me that the long darkness would soon approach, signaling me to dread the lack of light and my mood would plummet until sometime in April. But then I discovered ways to not only survive the winter, but to look forward to them and flourish. I found that getting outside is the first step.

Cross Country skiing after a morning snow in the winter-only section at Riveredge Nature Center.

A few years ago someone gave me an old pair of cross country skis. I’d grown up skiing cross country with my dad, so the movement was familiar. I went skiing and realized that, even though it was a slog the first few tries, I started feeling better afterward. It was a different, better than being on a treadmill or lifting weights. I’d wake up the next day calmer, feeling more refreshed, and with a head full of ideas.

Scientists are publishing research behind the reasons why we feel better during and after being outdoors. In a recent study by Stanford University, researchers found that spending time walking in a forested environment positively affected participants brains in ways that taking a walk around the block did not. Myriad studies abound praising the effects nature has on the developing brains of children. If children learn to seek nature for rest and relaxation, they will be better equipped to deal with the stresses of each following day.

Students of The Riveredge School learning to cross country ski.

But it doesn’t have to necessarily be about athletic activity in the outdoors (although that generally makes life more comfortable when it’s cold out). Just being outside and breathing forest air has been shown to lower blood pressure, feelings of hostility, and symptoms of depression. It’s no accident that we associate the scent of pine forests with cleanliness and renewal.

Riveredge Members preparing to head out in search of the Yule Log.

At Riveredge, we host a number of programs throughout wintertime designed to get you outside, or at least get you out of the house in the direction of being outside (You’re already dressed for the weather…might as well go for a hike). A great start your weekend by getting outdoors during our Friday Night Candle-lit Hikes. But beyond that, these 10 miles of trails are here waiting for whenever you’re able to fit a little nature into your schedule. Even though winter may be the season of long nights, it’s also the only season when the trail twinkles alongside your steps.

– Ed Makowski, Riveredge Marketing & Communications Manager

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