This summer seems to have given us some of the most prolonged periods of good weather I can remember for years. Days and days of sunshine, high temperatures, warm and humid nights, and then the inevitable thunderstorms that break down and start the cycle over again. But I'm actually quite enjoying it. Not being confined to packed commuter trains or stuffy offices (sorry to those of you who are!) is bliss, and being able to get outside regularly, even just for a few minutes in the garden is wonderful.
Nature at this time of year is in full flow, everything is growing fast, and the garden is filled with colour, as are other people's gardens, the woods and fields, there are insects everywhere, and birds sing from early in the morning until late at night. OK, so perhaps I could live without the 4am chorus some mornings, but I can't really begrudge the birds their joy.
One of my favourite things to do is to have a wander round the garden when I first get up, to see what has grown, which flowers are opening, if my vegetables are ready to harvest yet, and to enjoy the cool freshness before the sun rises too high. I also go out barefoot, and the feel of dew-dampened grass between my feet never fails to lift my spirits, being in direct contact with the earth is such a beautiful way to start the day.
One of my second favourite things to do is to go out last thing in the evening before going to bed to enjoy the still-warm patio stone underfoot, the gentle breeze of twilight, and the cooler air after the sun has set. Sometimes the robin is still foraging for worms in the grass, or the blackbird calling from the neighbours tree. If I'm really lucky I'll spot a bat flying overhead, or catch the hoot of an owl in the nearby woods.
During the day our south-facing garden can be a real sun trap, and when temperatures have soared above 30 degrees it can be unbearably stifling, so I tend to stay indoors and wait for the sun to pass around so that the house shades the garden and it's safe to step outside without getting your feet burned.
Usually a couple of times a week I will walk to the local shops, and despite the regular route there are always new and different things to spot - I'm a complete nosy parker when it comes to other people's front gardens! New bedding plants in one border, the roses in bloom in another, freshly mown grass here, cherries or apples growing on trees that bore blossom a few weeks ago. So many different colours, shapes, scents, textures - for this curious creative there is always plenty of inspiration to be gathered.
Occasionally a longer walk calls me, as happened last week, when I'll head beyond the housing estate, through the neighbouring patch of woodland, recently coppiced to allow more light to reach the ground, then further, where the tangles of nettles, brambles, holly and ivy scramble up tree trunks. Along the edge of the playing fields there are borders of wildflowers and grasses, literally alive and humming with bees and other insects, and hedgerows where blackberries are already beginning to ripen.
Passing through the gate and crossing the road, another narrow path leads me through the undergrowth and the shade of trees, until suddenly they stop, and I step out onto open farmland. Fields and fields of golden wheat gently waving in the breeze reach as far as the eye can see under a clear blue sky, the edges awash with colour from wild flowers and vibrant green grass. All this open space is a delight and a relief after the enclosure of the woods, though they bring their own kind of comfort, and I'm sure my steps are lighter as I carefully round the fields before rejoining civilisation.
Getting outdoors really can feel like the best medicine some days - the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair, it is more than just a change of scenery for the eyes, or exercise for the body. It also gives out minds a chance to rest and our emotions the opportunity to recalibrate. I know I always feel calmer, more steady, rested yet energised, and invariably inspired too after I've been for a walk. But even those few minutes in the garden a couple of times a day can be enough to ground and centre me to carry on with whatever tasks are waiting. Or, to let my million-miles-an-hour brain slow down so that I can hear the answers I'm looking for.
What do you enjoy about being outside? Is it the space and fresh air? The exercise or seeing the efforts of your gardening labours rewarded? And where are your favourite places to be outdoors? I love a walk in the woods, but also find I'm craving a beach trip to feel sand between my toes and the wash of the sea. Perhaps you're not a summer person at all and can't wait for winter's chill to bundle up in coats and scarves and head out for a walk then? Please share with me the magic you find in nature and spending time outside, either in a comment here, or by sending me a message.