So far in 2020, I’ve spent more time in the woods than in past years combined. Even before the pandemic, I made being outside a priority, hiking during winter. Being in nature is essential, instinctive, and necessary for our overall wellness. We benefit physically and emotionally. We’re able to settle more into our bodies, breathing in and out, smelling the fresh air, feeling the sun’s warmth. It’s a meditation—and we need this now more than ever.

That’s why we’ve dedicated our Outdoors Issue to getting out. We’re lucky to live in an area of natural beauty and ecological diversity. I took these wonders for granted growing up in the Upstate. Now, thankfully I understand the gift of being in the backyard of the mountains, with the coast only a three-hour jaunt away.

For a comprehensive guide to the natural nooks, crannies, and the stuff in between, we’ve turned to writer and Western North Carolina resident, Melissa Reardon. As the parks begin to open and travel becomes more accessible, hopping on highways 25 and 276 is the primo weekend plan, either with a destination in mind—click here for Melissa’s picks—or allowing the road to lead where it will. Simplicity is paramount these days, and it seems to go hand-in-hand with summer’s start.

In many respects, this issue is also an ode to the sweetness of June, when we relish time in the garden, at the farmers market, in the backyard, even. We highlight the artwork of Jean Wilson Freeman, whose vibrant botanical murals and works on paper evoke the life cycle of bud and bloom. Professor Rocky Nation leads nature walks through his organization, Carolina Wilderness Renewal, which promotes the benefits of the Japanese ritual, forest bathing. Kathryn Davé offers a beautiful recipe for grilled peppers, along with a few standout, thirst-quenching beers to beat the heat.

As we’re all wrapping our minds around the unfolding of these last few weeks, novelist Ashley Warlick muses on how the pandemic has altered her sense of time and how to think forward in this new normal. We’re all in the river, some going fast, others more slowly, some stuck at the moment—but the current moves without pause. We can buck against it, or let the water take us where it will. In nature’s serenity, I’ll be going with the flow.

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Blair Knobel
Editor-in-Chief
Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

Photograph by Kim McMillin