In the Cool, Open Air

Last weekend Jim, Jenna and I spent a quiet and appropriately distanced few days on Tilghman Island, a charming Eastern Shore watermen’s village. We went for relaxation and to unplug for a short time in this crazy time of COVID. We are supposed to be with Kelsy in Montana, visiting James. I was disappointed not to be in Big Sky country with our whole family, but there is always next summer.

On Tilghman Island we spent a few nights at the Wylder Hotel. A beautiful waterfront spot complete with an outdoor restaurant perfect for dining in the time of COVID. Al fresco dining is something I truly love. Jim and Jenna are not fans (something about Eastern Shore flies), but we had no choice except to eat outdoors so they made the best of it. For me, it was simply perfect. 

The phrase al fresco is Italian meaning “in the cool air,” although it is not used to describe eating outdoors in Italy. Al fresco dining is, of course, popular here in the summer and I greatly enjoy it on my screened porch when it is not 100+ degrees. The auto industry also uses the phrase “al fresco motoring” to describe driving a convertible with the top down, but I like to think I am driving al fresco when I have my sunroof open with my hand up catching the wind. 

Being outside on a summer morning or evening, in the cool air, breathes life into each of us as we emerge from the long, cold COVID springtime and face the months ahead. I am busy with the Kent School team as we plan to return to campus for in-person learning in September. We are thinking a lot about outdoor learning and activities so that we can maximize time outside in our teaching gardens, and on the back field under tents, on our riverside campus in the cool, open air.

At one time in its hundred-plus-year history, Roland Park Country School (my previous school) left the four walls of the classroom behind and became an Open Air school. Open Air schools were built on the concept that fresh air, good ventilation and exposure to the outside contributed to improved health (Wikipedia). The concept originated in Germany and these schools were designed with movable walls to the outside to prevent tuberculosis before World War II. The concept is a good one in my opinion. One particularly cold day this past winter, before we knew about COVID, and when there were numerous absences due to influenza at Kent School, I asked all employees to throw open the doors and windows to get some fresh air inside. At a minimum, it made everyone – faculty and students alike – laugh at me, smile, and breathe deeply. Cool, crisp air is definitely restorative.

I am a writer who loves to write outside in the early morning. As we speak I am on my porch, writing al fresco in my open air “office.” The slight chill in the air and the breeze after Hurricane Isaias inspires me and the call of my ospreys motivates me to keep at it. (The coffee also helps the creative process along!) 

Thinking ahead to dinner, it is definitely a good day to plan a grilled meal in the cool, open air.

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