Recreational Opportunities Around You – Mondays with Matt

For this session, I want to chat with you all about recreational opportunities. Opportunities that you can take with your kid – and if you are one of my young friends reading this, recreational opportunities for you – around your community. A great recreational outdoor activity that you can take part in is hiking, or simply walking, around your community. Not only will you be exercising – remember the lesson about staying in physical shape – but you will be learning about history and your community.

In Hadley, and really the Pioneer Valley/Western Massachusetts in general, we are surrounded by both historical and recreational opportunities. Recreation does not only encompass the world of athletics. Athletics is merely the most visible recreational activity that we are exposed to. Recreation, though, encompasses a vast array of experiences and exposures. Think about it, family trips, leisure trips, field trips. Where did you go? If you are in Hadley, you may have taken a walk through some of the back farm fields with your neighbor’s permission. You may have hiked up the Mt. Holyoke range or had a picnic at Skinner State park. These are all recreational activities. However, the activity is only one part of the recreational experience. Learning and education are also recreational activities. Look at those farm fields. What story do they tell? What stories can the mountain range tell us? The Skinner State Park Summit House – who has walked that ground and seen those views? When you combine education, history and exercise, you can take part in a wonderful recreational experience.

As we head into the Autumn months, we all observe the beauty of the changing seasons. Gone are many of the days where the days were blistering hot and sticky. The weather has started to cool down and you are back in school – though that too looks a bit different this year. The leaves are starting to change and the air grows brisker. What can you do for fun that gets you outdoors but allows you to be socially distanced during these trying times? Those walks that we talked about above.

While it will be different for each person, you can create your own adventure when you go for these walks. It does not matter whether you are 7 years old, 37 years old or 67 years old. As long as you enjoy the walk and are willing to observe the world around you, you can have a fun recreational outing.

Let me share an example of this. When I am not working, this is one of my favorite forms of recreational activity. I live close to a lot of farm land, land that I have walked since I was a kid and the land owners know me. I will walk those back fields, up and down hills. I am exercising and letting my mind relax and be completely free. Yet, I pay attention. As you walk, you absent-mindedly start thinking. Why does the land look like this? Much of our bottom land in Hadley was, and still is, carved by the steady yet forceful water of the Connecticut River. That rise on the horizon? That was once valuable land for the Native Americans who lived here. Why? A raised piece of land surrounded on three sides by water and the fourth by a mountain. You stand on that piece of land and look around. At present, it is farmland – good fertile soil. But it was not always so. It was once a place where a village that was part of the Nonotuck tribe called home and lived, led by their leader, QuontQuont. At this point, I turn around and walk back home, up and down river beds and knolls. My mind is free and I feel physically stronger. I also feel mentally stronger. Only 30 minutes has gone by but I have exercised and learned. I have created a recreational adventure.

As the days grow shorter and the seasons change, remember to look at the world around you. Our world is our classroom. It always has been and always will be. As you seek out recreational activities for yourself and your family, remember to seek out the small adventures. This came naturally to us as kids and still can. Taking a simple walk or hike through your community is as good a recreational activity as the next. You will exercise and you will learn.

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