A few days ago I took a couple of my grandsons hiking with me. We stared at the lake, kicked though the leaves, searched for Eagles, made walking sticks, watched the clouds play tag in the blue autumn sky, climbed through exposed tree roots. We talked, were silent for long periods, scrambled down dry creek beds and up steep hills. Time flew, time stood still.
As I shared this journey with the boys, I thought about the statistic that I recently heard—teenagers in America spend an average of 9 hours of screen time a day, excluding the time they spend on computers in school. Tweens (ages 8-12) spend 6 hours consuming media.
Now, I am not critical of screen time. I am in awe of the world that is revealed through our digital access. But, when I am out hiking, I wonder what our children are missing by not being outside in the simi-wild nature of parks and woods. What happens when children and adults don’t expose themselves to the wind and rain, the sun and the stars? What are we missing when we lose touch with our senses and stare at the sterile world of the screens?
I am convinced that our souls are fed through our skin. After all, our skin is the largest organ of the body. It is that through which we feel the slick water, the wild wind, the hot sun and the tickling breeze. To wander in the woods, to smell the autumn leaves, to hear the rustle of the crisp branches in the wind, to sense the taste the wild blackberry, to see the seasonal shift in the changing colors is to know oneself alive and blessed with creation’s grace.
As I hiked with my grandsons, I wondered when this kind of soul work should begin. I hoped it would begin for them and all my grandchildren at a very early age. And then I remembered that I didn’t really get it till I was in my mid 40s. So, I realize that any time is a good time to begin nurturing our souls through the grace of our senses.