If you can, do me a small favor. Put down this magazine for a moment. (Wait! Let me explain.) I’m not asking you to permanently abandon this issue of Exchange. But if you have three minutes to spare, here’s my request: go outside, sit or stand still, and just observe. Breathe. Admire a nearby flowering tree or a tenacious weed in a sidewalk crack. Is the air humid? Redolent of grass clippings or car exhaust, or a bit of both? Is it raining? How does the rain feel on your skin?

Take three minutes, outdoors, to just be. (Then, by all means, come back to Exchange and pick up where you left off!)
I’ve spent too much of 2022 planted like a squat cactus in front of my computer, staring at Word documents and PDFs, filling in spreadsheets and forms. In taking on extra volunteer work, I cut into my own “roaming” time. Recovering from a knee surgery, I couldn’t enjoy my usual walks. And so, my Macbook and I gradually fused into one cranky being. I felt indolent. Sluggish. Snippy. Blue.

The arrival of spring helped. A colorful pot of annuals goosed my mood. Watching my children plant cucumbers gave us all something to look forward to—summer snacks from the garden and the joy of watching tender new vines grow and twist toward the sun.

Meantime, several authors submitted articles about finding opportunities for learning and joy in nature—each with a unique focus, and each almost universally attainable in some fashion, regardless of our readers’ particular geographic setting or climate. Working at times with minimal access to green space, these innovative educators inspired me with their stories and their ideas—replicable anywhere and an instant recipe for happiness. And so, our Focus On: Just Outside the Classroom Door, was born.

As reflected in our cover art, this issue also formally introduces the 2022 cadre of Exchange Leaders. The honorees share their personal mantras, reflect on the moment they realized they were a leader, and offer their vision for what they believe our field needs in the future.

I get a sneak peek every May as I edit the ELI article for our July/August issue, and each year, I am reminded anew that our broad Exchange galaxy of collaborators and authors and thinkers and practitioners is made up of countless remarkable, hard-working, courageous people. This group exemplifies the dedication and heart that each of you bring to your work.

Times are hard, but we are so lucky to have each other. Pop outside again, any time you need to. Pick a dandelion and contemplate its offerings. Pet a stranger’s Labradoodle. Squint against the sun to admire the flight patterns of a pigeon. Laugh at the fact that you’re admiring a pigeon. Then square your shoulders, lift your chin, and get back to it. We need you.

Sara Gilliam author and former editor of Exchange magazine.

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