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Rediscovering the outdoors

With spring flowers blooming and weather warming, the outdoors offers an opportunity to connect with nature or relieve stress through physical activity.

Cross country and tennis coach Chris Wise encourages his team to rediscover the outdoors by running in a place that’s pleasant, whether it’s the open road or a trail in the wilderness.

“I would just encourage people, whether they’re active or not active, to become active in this time,” said Wise. “It’s good for your ability to cope with situations where the world seems to be spinning out of control.”

Physical activities like running, cycling or kayaking can give people an opportunity to relive stress, to immerse themselves in the world around them and have time alone to think through problems, said Wise.

“I go in all types of weather, because I appreciate that sense of actually experiencing the change of the seasons and watching the spring flowers and the fall flowers,” said Wise.

One place to walk through nature is the Crosby Arboretum, which is offering free admission to its 64 acres of trails and native plants during this time.

Visitors can see the native azaleas or iris along the pond or visit the savanna exhibit to watch pitcher plant flowers unfurl, said Director Pat Drackett.

“The neat thing about the Arboretum is that many years ago when they designed it, they designed it for perpetual change. It’s not like a typical garden where everything’s irrigated and kept in one way,” said Drackett. “People will see things they didn’t see last week. They’ll see blooms that are coming. They’ll see surprises around every bend of the trail.”
Every year the humidity, water and weather conditions affect which plants bloom and when, to create a constantly evolving tapestry of plant life, Drackett said.

The site has experienced an increase in visitors, with over 200 people last weekend. With that increase has been an increase in littering. Visitors using trashcans and taking all of their belongings home with them, along with following CDC recommendations to practice social distancing, will help ensure both the Arboretum wildlife and the visitors can stay healthy.

People can also connect with nature from their living room or backyard by visiting southeasternflora.com, a site that helps users identify flowers. Children could also create an at home plant press or use an iron and wax paper to press flowers, said Drackett. The Mississippi State Extension Service has directions on projects like pressing flowers, along with gardening resources on its website.

Along with physical activity, Wise likes to connect with the natural world through his vegetable garden.

“To me, it’s a spiritual thing. I can get out there and plant seed, but I didn’t make that happen. It’s a connection with God to me. It’s a sense of helping Him and helping achieve a goal of allowing the plant to be able to bear fruit,” said Wise.

Wise has a half-acre of sweet corn, along with butterbeans, red beans, squash, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce and broccoli. Growing vegetables gives him the chance to play in the dirt, but also gives a sense of self-reliance.

“You can help provide for yourself and maybe in doing that, take some of the burden off of what’s needed for people that can’t,” said Wise.

Gardening can also give people a sense of control in an uncertain time, Wise said.