DIFW Commissioner Judy Camuso is all about the outdoors. She recently wrote a good column explaining why. Here it is.
Join Judy Outside – Opting Out Every Day – by Judy Camuso
Last week, I had to push myself to get outside and go for a walk. It was a crappy weather day; my least favorite. Cold rain. I don’t mind a nice warm rain; when I could still run, running in a warm rain was always my favorite. It was cold though, not quite cold enough for snow, but a cold sleety precipitation dropping from the sky. The air was raw, and the sky was gray and gloomy. Not a day that screams “let’s go for a walk”.
A few days prior, I went to an event hosted L.L.Bean to celebrate outdoor recreation. The event was inspiring and motivating, reminding me of how valuable our natural resources are and how lucky I am to live in a state that has such bountiful resources. From the coast, to the mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches, forests, and four seasons; Maine has it all. It’s a huge part of our economy and our lifestyle. Mainers rank third in the country for percentage of residents who recreate in the outdoors. We heard from a panel of experts; talking about how healthy it is to get outside. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, spending time in the outdoors is good for us all. I had been thinking about this the entire weekend after, and about another statistic that I heard: 50% of people in the United States only spend time in the outdoors one day a year. That is incomprehensible to me.
As Commissioner of MDIFW, I spend a lot of time outside. Both for work and in my personal life. I would say I am outside most days, but not every day. Some days the weather stinks, or I’m tired, or rushed, or late, or stressed and I don’t make time. Just last week I was having a lousy day at the office; so many little things were going wrong and agitating me. One of the people I work with came in my office and demanded I go outside for a walk. “I can’t, I have a meeting in a half hour,” I said. “Let’s go,” he insisted, “twenty minutes is plenty of time.” I went, and sure enough, after 10 minutes all the stress started to dissolve, and life seemed much more manageable again.
If I, the Commissioner of MDIFW, don’t make time every day to get outside, how do other people? I mean my job demands I go out. I am thinking about committing to myself, and publicly, to get outside every day. That’s a big commitment; I know there will be times when my schedule is crazy, life will be crazy, I will be tired, crabby, cold, hot, sticky, whatever. There is always something.
This past week, I started my commitment to #OptOutEveryDay. On my way home from the gym, I stopped at Florida Lake. I am super lucky and live in an area with lots of places I can go and walk with Mason, my dog. Florida Lake is only a mile or so from my house, so we visit here often. I walked down the familiar trail, and as I turned the bend toward the large “lake/pond”, I started to hear a lot of bird chatter. What is that I thought? I got a little closer and the noise got louder and louder. So loud, that I thought to myself “what month are we in?” It was as loud as any spring morning. There were hundreds of American robins chirping and actually singing, and at least a hundred purple finches calling and chasing each other through the trees. There were dozens of dark-eyed juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, and a few goldfinches. All the birds were making noise. Not necessarily singing, as they would during the breeding season, but chattering. Communicating. I stopped and watched them for about 15 minutes, wondering “what is going on here?” Usually birds are quiet in November. Maybe there is a predator in the area, I thought, but the birds weren’t acting like that. They were flitting about, chasing each other around; they didn’t seem to be “on guard” or trying to avoid or even chase off a predator.
Mason and I walked our normal loop, out by the pond, with a fresh skim of ice on it. There was one spot that wasn’t frozen over yet and was filled with 12 feeding mallards. We ended up back where we started, and the birds were still all chatting and causing a general raucous. I stopped and watched them for a while longer, standing there in the freezing rain, shivering in the cold, and smiling. I love watching wildlife. There birds are squawking and calling. Maybe there is a predator, maybe the birds are moving through the area and they are excited about the abundance of winterberries, maybe they are worked up about the pending storm. Maybe this is why I chose my field, wildlife biology. Because it’s 2019 and we still don’t know all the answers; hell, we don’t even know all the questions. Maybe this is what attracts me outside…you never know what you will see. You never know how nature will surprise and stymy you. Maybe this is why I love being outside so much, because it reminds me of my place in the world and connects me to all the things I share this world with. Maybe I can commit to spending time outside every day. Maybe you will join me?