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TIP OF THE WEEK: Winter at night can be breath-taking

From star-gazing walks to backyard fire pits, fresh air therapy can be beneficial to both mind and body, says Sustainable Orillia

EDITOR'S NOTE: OrilliaMatters is partnering with Sustainable Orillia to publish a weekly tip. Check back here every Tuesday evening for a new tip. For more information, visit the Sustainable Orillia website.

February is WinterActive month, intended to encourage physical activity through play within the elements.

Most outdoor activities typically embrace snow and colder temps during daylight hours, but what if your adventurous spirit didn't have to end when the sun goes down?

Let's consider some options for getting active outside under the cover of night for a different kind of outdoor experience. If we’re going to make our community and our planet sustainable, we’ll need to get to know it in all its features, its rhythms and its wonders.

Check the weekly weather forecast to find a clear night to take a stargazing walk. You'll be able to see basic constellations with the naked eye, although binoculars or a simple telescope can certainly enhance your view. But really, neither are necessary.

The “plough”, aka Big Dipper, is an easy-to-identify group of seven stars that, once spotted, serves as a marker from which you'll be able to locate the North Star, aka Polaris, as it sits directly over the North Pole. Find a sky map online or consult an astronomy book for beginners to help guide your search. It's truly remarkable how taking time to simply look up at the night sky gives us pause to reflect on the infinite beauty of the natural world.

Following the lunar cycle is another spectacular way to engage your interest in the great outdoors. Plan a hike, snowshoe or X-country ski under the next full moon.

February boasts the full Snow Moon on the 27th around 3 a.m. but will likely be best viewed the evening of the 26th. Just as the moon phases influence the ocean's tide, they are believed (even if only anecdotally) to influence an energetic shift in people. Some consider the full moon a time to release old energy and welcome new, as well as an opportunity to express creativity and gratitude. 

Create a comfortable backyard viewing area for some post night-excursion R and R that the whole family can enjoy. If you reside in an area that permits fire pits, set up one with chairs and blankets for added warmth.

Make a night of it by preparing snacks such as a charcuterie board, s'mores and hot beverages. If a fire isn't an option where you live, try illuminating your space with lanterns, possibly even homemade, or tiki torches. 

There are, of course, some safety measures to consider when venturing anywhere outdoors at night. Be sure to wear some reflective gear and keep to familiar territory.

It's always a good idea to let others know your planned route and take a cell phone with a location tracker along in case of emergency. There are helpful apps like What3words that have proven to be lifesavers. 

Fresh air therapy is so beneficial to both mind and body.

By conceptually expanding the hours of enjoyable outdoor playtime we can help make outdoor active living more attainable for those working the bulk of daylight hours. Think of it as a paradigm shift to promote a fresh perspective on our natural surroundings, strengthen our relationship to it and foster a desire to protect it.

Sustainability begins with a full appreciation for our planet and all that it offers us. And remember, the great outdoors never really closes. 

Submitted by Rosanna Shillolo, Yoga Instructor and Sustainability Orillia volunteer (Health & Wellness Sector)