It was a perfect late-spring day — the sun was shining, the temperature was not too hot, not too cold, and the humidity was low. A workman was coming to the house to look at the furnace, and I had planned to take the rest of the afternoon off. But my schedule went sideways that morning, and it just couldn’t be done. I knew I would have to go back to work.

So I took advantage of the hour I did have and dragged the zero-gravity chair out onto the deck we only get to use a few weeks out of the year — due to the swarms of mosquitoes that like it, too.

I had a book with me, but I didn’t open it. Instead, I lay suspended in the chair under the oak bough that protected me from the full force of the sun, and it cast a blanket of dappled shade all around me. The breeze ruffled my hair and set the leaves softly swishing overhead, and the pair of cardinals that live in the backyard chirped cheerfully at each other as the sweet scent of blooming roses and peonies wafted by. Even the traffic noise — because this is an urban deck — seemed hushed and familiar and comforting. When I got up, I felt rested and refreshed and ready to face my next task.

As I folded the chair, I realized what a contradiction it is that for most of us, our biggest expense is buying or renting some kind of shelter. We spend loads of time and money furnishing and decorating and maintaining the places we live in. And yet, when we want to relax and recharge, we invariably head outdoors.

There must be something in our makeup that tells us that while safety and protection can be found inside, happiness and healing are always waiting for us — if we just take the time to go outside.

— Betsy Biesenbach, a reader in Roanoke

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