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Kay Stellpflug: It's summer, so get me near the water

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Who doesn’t love Wisconsin? I mean, really. We love autumn and all the leaves. We love the snow and everything about the winter wonderland we live in. We love those first hints of spring.

I know I love it all. After two years of no travel for me, the ocean started calling my name. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Wisconsin, it’s just that I felt a bit confined. Right and left, I was hearing about people who were bailing COVID to find a place by the sea. I sat tight, waiting for this too to pass. COVID became the endless winter, and “anyplace else” looked like the answer.

With all that extra time to read, I even found far too much evidence that suggested the sea was the place to be. You know how I love studies that report what I love to hear. My research led me to those articles that added science and data to the benefits of the sea. The ocean has potent power to heal, they documented.

It is said the ocean opened lungs and expanded minds and boosted endorphins. It was time to personally put the data to the test. There are volumes of research conducted on green space, all validated by personal experience. But the “blue space” verdicts were still out. Out to sea, perhaps. I must pursue this line of reasoning.

Liquid landscapes include the color, the sound and the motion attributed to healthy emotions, restoration and creativity. Lakes are included in some of the data, but there is a solid bias toward salt water that no Wisconsin or Minnesotan lake can provide.

I understand the sun, water and surf as stress relievers, but the smell of sunscreen might overwhelm the senses and remind us how peopley it is along the coasts. Nonetheless, the opportunity for physical activity that involves movement minus the fleece and mittens is quite the draw.

As for legitimate scientific data, let’s just say it’s in all the travel magazines, so who is going to question it. Though we might sight sketchy sources, I will never challenge the value of higher levels of vitamin D or the calming effect of waves lapping the shore.

Whether living near water really lengthens one’s life, strengthens immune systems and assists in sleep is open for discussion. But can the discussion take place on a beach while holding drinks with little umbrellas in them?

Does being near water encourage relaxation? Does it help us come out of our shell? Do our worries drift away? Do we become more “shore” of ourselves? Yes, to all three. One little driving trip south and east assured me that home is definitely where the heart is, but the ocean has its appeal to bare feet.

It’s now summer, and we will all be looking for that temporary and most sacred reprieve from our everyday lives. Work, commitments, routine and stresses will be set aside for some quality down time. There are plans of summer vacations “away from it all.” Just a heads-up: Sometimes the planning can add additional stress so one needn’t get too elaborate or too extravagant. Keeping plans simple and within a budget is as important as getting away.

Blue skies over blue surroundings do not make one blue. Trust me on that. Green space and blue space with some sandy brown thrown in for good measure is certainly just what the doctor ordered.

Away from it all can be as simple as the nearest lake, in a kayak, canoe or fishing boat. You needn’t travel hundreds of miles to let your spirit soar and your anxieties float away. If an ocean isn’t available, a lake will do. Even a pond will meet the criteria. Just ask “Walden,” I mean Henry David Thoreau.

Stellpflug, of Beaver Dam, is an educator and trainer in communications: kaystellpflug@gmail.com.

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