Cherry blossoms with post title

Welcome to my guest this week, Kathleen Stinehart, who is one of a group of professional women who support and learn from each other here in the northern Shenandoah Valley. I enjoyed this post so much when it appeared on her blog, and I asked if she would let me share it with you. There are so many ways to connect with nature, but it all begins with taking the time to notice and be grateful. I think you'll enjoy her perspective. Be sure to check out her new blog “The Best Is Yet To Be,” where she shares the highs and lows (mostly the highs) of growing older.

The best thing about retirement for us independent types is getting to set our own schedules. No more meetings, unless we want them. No more work hours. No more deadlines. No more anything except what we choose to do. WooHoo!

Gradually, through this first year of being retired, I notice myself re-setting my schedule to fit the seasons, the weather, and how I feel each day. Yes I have some scheduled obligations related to family – like fixing supper, running errands, taking care of the car. Still, most of my time is my own.

I’ve spent years of long days inside working, working, working – regardless of how I felt or what was going on outside.This, then, comes as an amazing change. Of course I’ve always loved to work, so being indoors for so much of my life was rarely an issue at the time.

Until it went away.

Now instead of dressing in pearls and heels and grabbing my “brief bag” as I race to get to the office on time, I’m outside in my grubbiest outfit doing a little yard work. I’m puttering in my container garden, taking a walk, reading in the hammock, or – my personal favorite – working the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the deck in the late afternoon.

I hear the birds. I watch the squirrels, the deer, and Hobbes the cat. I listen to the cardinals and the mourning doves and the neighbor’s dog and I grab an occasional glimpse of skunk, groundhog, or rabbit.

cat paws

Hobbes the cat

And there it is – the breeze, the dappled sunlight, the morning fog. I’m so charmed by it all I just let my mind wander. I sit on the roofed deck and watch the rain. I notice the buds appearing, the flowers opening, the vegetation growing, the leaves turning color and leaving, the snow falling. It’s both totally ordinary and deeply spiritual.

I don’t recall feeling this intensely about the out-of-doors since the summer of 1957, when I was nine and learned how to set an alarm clock so I could get up in the mornings before anyone else in my family did. I wanted to have our small back yard all to myself as the dew dried and the sun came up – the first sunrises I had ever seen.

I don’t think I really did anything out there on the back lawn – just kind of wandered around. For some reason, I wanted to be alone to experience that time of day. I still feel early mornings are the best part of summer.

Now I’m wondering if enjoying the outdoors so much this past year may be just the first of many things growing older will be giving me. Is that possible, do you think? Are there other gifts in store for us as we age? And will we be aware enough to receive them?

tree branch covered with snow

Photos by author.

Kathleen Stinehart

Kathleen Stinehart

Kathleen Stinehart is a former kindergarten teacher, college dean, and natural foods store/cafe owner who now blogs about growing older at Originally from Iowa, Kathleen has three grown children and two grandchildren, and lives in Virginia with her husband and Hobbes the cat.

Connect with Kathleen at her fabulous website or:




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