Simple Pleasures


Step back in time and enjoy a simpler era.  Remember growing up?  Some of the most treasured moments in life are those spent together outdoors.  Watching wildlife, hiking on a trail or playing at a park, nature seems to provide the perfect setting for fun.  A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear, “remember the good ol’ days” and I transcend into visions of those days.  I remember healthy bike rides, walking along the beach exploring, hiking the trails at historic Ft. Barton in New England.  It was awesome looking out over Blueberry Hill to the panorama of sailboats in Mount Hope Bay, the Sakonnet River and around the Sakonnet River Lighthouse.  Indelible photos remain in my memory recounting the many smiles I wore back then. 

Whether together as a couple or with family, get away from ‘reality TV shows’ and start living reality.  Don’t disconnect with nature, reconnect and take your children, your spouse, or your friends along.  Experts claim that outdoor activity declines with age and thus your health with the decline.  But parents can help build lasting memories while reconnecting with their kids with the outdoors through outdoor family activities. 

Spring is a perfect time, after a sedentary and very cold winter last year, to burst onto the scene and explore nature.  One of life’s simple pleasures is watching wildlife in their natural habitat. 

photo by Joan Pyke

 Equip yourself with a camera, or binoculars and go out to your local parks and hiking trails and identify the array of birds and various animals you see there.  Or head out to a local nature preserve or wildlife habitat.  Bring a pen and notebook along to jot down animals and birds spotted during this adventure.  Turn this outdoor family activity into one done monthly, if you can, and ensure you build a scrapbook out of all the pictures, notes and discoveries made together while exploring nature. 


My husband Martin and I went to Sawgrass Lake Park, 400 acres in size, with one of the largest maple swamps on the Gulfcoast of Florida.   It was the ideal day with temperatures in the upper 70s, no humidity, full sunshine and a slight breeze – an absolutely picture perfect Florida day.   Sawgrass Lake Park has a mile long boardwalk, with sitting areas along the way and culminating with Overlook Tower.  Sawgrass is here in Pinellas County, one of the most densely populated counties in Florida and yet we saw birds such as egrets, wood storks, ibis, and an aningha drying out his wingspans in the sun. 

photo by Joan Pyke

We also photographed the most adorable turtles, a rather interesting  eight-foot long alligator and a few smaller ones, exquisite butterflies, mischievous raccoons and rascally squirrels.  


And did you know that Sawgrass Lake Park is mentioned by the National Audubon Society as one of the premier birding sites in Florida.  I’m in awe and so thankful that it’s a part of my life.  And guess what folks?  It’s free!  Uh huh, you won’t have to pay exorbitant fees (think the Florida theme parks) to enjoy a fun-filled, adventurous day. 

photo by Joan Pyke

Plan an electronic free day to embrace life’s simple pleasures as we did as children.  Those were the best of times that we can share again and include our own children in the pictures this time.  Head to a nearby park and fill your day with activities that past generations may have enjoyed when they were children.  Try skipping stones across a placid lake or pond or relearn how to fly a kite.  Build sand castles at the beach – what a wonderful ‘team’ building activity too.  Identify the types of trees and birds you find at the park.  Watch dragonflies dance across the water as I did.  I found myself glued to their sight … something so simple, yet magical and marvelous. 

Remember my friends, as parents you can help your children get outdoors again while rediscovering some of the simplest pleasures of life.  Nature serves as the world’s largest playground … my dad used to say that.  Oh my gosh, have I become my dad?  Well, it’s okay I suppose as I get it now. 

Best of all, most of these simple pleasures are free or very affordable, and making them ideal family activities to do together without spending a fortune.  The memories you’ll have and your kids will take with them into adulthood will be priceless treasures.  After all, some of the best things in life are still free!