It’s a lifeline. It’s a necessity. It’s the best relief. And at this time of year, it’s bitterly cold.
An outdoor escape provides an antidote to the pandemic’s harsh prophylactics of isolation and quarantine, but now requires extra layers of defense against Greater Boston’s frozen winter.
On Saturday, the pursuit of that powerful medicine led to scenes of dogs chasing a ball on a snowy beach in Revere, a surfer riding the waves off the coast of Lynn, and a marriage proposal in the Boston Public Garden.
“There’s no day like the present,” said Mathison Cloreafter he proposed Saturdaymorning to his girlfriend, Kelly O’Keefe, on the picturesque pedestrian span in the Boston Public Garden as their families watched from a distance.
O’Keefe later said that she thought she and Clore were venturing out to pick up breakfast sandwiches before her longtime boyfriend asked her to take off her face mask and got down on bended knee.
The National Weather Service reported the temperature in Boston was 8 degrees at about the time O’Keefe said, “Yes.”
“It was very exciting,” she said later by phone.
While the happy couple and their families only stayed outside for about 20 minutes, even short outdoor trips offer physical and emotional benefits, said Dr. Darshan Mehta, medical director for the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“So at least when we’re out, if we’re walking in the city, you’ll at least see other people. And we can still have conversation,” Mehta said. He advised dressing in layers and covering exposed skin to prevent frostbite.
The city of Boston on Saturday declared a “weather emergency” due to the cold and opened a dozen warming centers. The cold weather is expected to last some days, with a storm coming in Monday.
The weather service forecast called for temperatures to bottom out at about 5 degrees before sunrise on Sunday. The high temperature could reach to only 27 degrees in the afternoon, forecasters said.
On Revere Beach, three friends found relief from the wind by standing in the shadow of the Shirley Avenue Bath House.
“We were adamant about getting out here no matter the weather,” said Roger Perez, who was joined by Casey Billings and Kim Neidermire.
Before Saturday, the group had last been together in August when they enjoyed a “perfect Massachusetts summer day” in Eastham.
The friends said they put their Revere gathering on the calendar about two to three weeks ago.
“Sometimes you have to hang out,” said Billings.
Getting out into nature lets people connect with the wider world, Mehta said.
“When we’re out in nature, there is a sense of being connected with something greater than the self,” he said. “That transcendent feeling is an important part of well-being.”
Lois Flad of Reading photographed the ocean from Revere Beach.
“Isn’t it gorgeous,” she asked. “It’s so pretty and it’s relaxing to hear the waves.”
Flad said she tries to get out as much as she can and visit places where there are not a lot of people.
“It’s definitely tough to stay home all the time,” she said.
Rachid Hsein of Revere said he planned to walk 3 miles.
“I need to move. I need to exercise because of my blood pressure. I have to go out,” said Hsein, who listened to public radio on headphones as he walked the beach. “Staying at home all day, 24/7 is really too much.”
John McCarrick of Back Bay tossed a ball along the beach for his dog, Quin, and Sully, his daughter’s puppy.
“It’s either get the energy out of them or be stuck in the house,” he said. “And this is the better alternative.”
He tried to steer the dogs away from the ocean.
“If the ball goes into the water, that’s the end of it. I’m not going in,” McCarrick said.
In East Boston, Max and Danielle Nemtsev walked along the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway with their daughter, Marcella, 15 months, and dog, Bella, who was dressed in a sweater.
Max Nemtsev said staying inside is not an option, and going outside in the cold just requires more preparation.
“With a 1-year-old it takes forever to get outside anyways. With the addition of an extra layer, it just takes more time,” he said.
Dressed in a shiny red snowsuit, little Marcella explored in the snow along the walking path, unfazed it appeared, by the cold.
Craig Walker and John Hilliard of the Globe staff contributed.