“Outdoorsman” is Not a Fashion Style

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I read in an article recently that outdoor companies like REI and North Face are having to tailor their brands as fashion lines because this new view of the outdoors as a fashion statement. As if being an outdoorsman is a style.

First and foremost, outdoor recreation is about respect. Clothing companies like North Face created truly rugged clothing lines out of respect for the tough environmental conditions that exist out in the world. They were explicitly aware of the fact that things could go south at any moment and a person better be prepared for it.

Now, it seems like taking outdoor adventures is about what is most instagram worthy. It’s no longer about what we do just as long as it looks cool to show off.

I think, it’s really about testing who we are. It’s about broadening our awareness of the natural world and our place within it. It’s an adventure because it’s something we do to grow and thrive.

It shouldn’t be about what is popular or what is “in” or what the style is, the outdoors is about getting back to biophilic roots.

It’s a way of life.

As we as human beings move further away from our roles as hunters, gatherers, and survivors, we grow weak and complacent at the core of who we are and lose ourselves.

We gain weight, lose coordination, and are generally unremarkable.

I sincerely love the moments outdoors when I can’t feel my fingers and the snow is blowing and my nerves are on edge because that’s when I feel alive. It’s when I realize that my blood flows and my eyes wander for danger and my legs pump across uneven ground.

That’s the outdoors to me and in my fervor to chase what will turn heads I lose the wild in it and unknowingly succumb to aggrandizing the wilderness.

That’s what’s in.

Well, I live to be out.

That’s an outdoorsman to me.

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The Recommended Fishing Book for Kids!

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I. Loved. This. Book.

Kids love picture books. It’s a time-tested fact that reading to a kid and pointing out photos on the page is a surefire way to keep their attention for long periods of time.

When I was a kid, the fishing book that I held in high regard was “Buck Wilder’s Small Fry Fishing Guide.” (Check out the amazon link to the book here)

This fishing guide for children became my youth fishing bible, and I loved to pour over the many drawings and comic book like illustrations that cover every page. At 18, I still love to laugh over the contents. Both a work of art and a true to life guide, I strongly recommend buying this book for the budding fishermen in your life.

Fishing is Boring, I Love That

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If fishing was easy they’d call it catching.

And if catching was the only purpose for it I probably wouldn’t be as strong a fisherman as I am now.

I am fortunate enough to live a life where the fish I catch are not my lifeline and so at the end of the day it’s just a chance for me to become more in tune with the outdoors. It’s a chance to slow down the gears in my head and focus on one moment and one objective, to catch a fish.

“Woah woah woah,” you might say, “I thought you said fishing wasn’t about catching?”

I did say that, but when one is fishing the definition is, truly, to catch a fish.

“Well, now I’m confused.”

Here, I’ll explain. Within the philosophy of practice there is a point achieved defined as “flow.” A point where your mind and body go into a sort of refined focus where you are only involved in that one moment or that next step and all outside distractions get set on the back burner.

This state of flow is achieved only when a person is focused on something so much so that they lose themselves in the moment.

For me, when I am out fishing in that lake or river my mind is only focused on one simple goal and that is to feel the weight of a fish on the end of my line. I think about where they are at or how to catch them, I watch the water’s surface for movement, I am aware of my shadow on the water and the wind in the air. When I am trying to catch a fish, I achieve that state of flow and it almost becomes a form of meditation.

In the moment I feel on two fronts. One, I feel a broad awareness of the environment around me and my focus is on so much yet so little that I feel the power in just being. Two, it’s a fact that I personally think and worry about way too much. This constant overthinking has been a part of my life for a long time yet somehow, among the rocks and sand and beating waves I can feel myself relax. It’s easy to not worry when I am out fishing because something else captivates my mind.

So, yes, the goal in fishing is to catch a fish but it is not the true reason for why I love it.

For me, fishing is the simplest lesson in being.

The Unfortunate Difficulty in Outdoor Recreation

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One summer, I spent a lot of time at a small neighborhood pond that was closer to a puddle than it was to anything else. It was a ten-minute drive from my house and yet provided me a fishing getaway on most days when I wished to get out and fish on my own.

This lake had a variety of game fish to choose from and was absolutely overrun with the Common Carp, a “trash” fish to most fishing purists. Now, young though I was, I was an avid fisherman and did just about any kind of fishing one could think of. I knew this pond, the spots, the baits and knew that I could catch at least something to stave off the dreaded skunk but at the time I fished for literally anything that would bite so I was usually rewarded.

On some trips, I’d invite my fishing deprived friends to join me because here I knew I could do my best to pique their interest in the sport. One trip in particular has always stood out as the perfect example of people not truly experiencing a sport as it could be.

My friend (who I will call Greg for this story) was a person that always said, “I don’t like fishing because you never catch anything.” So, of course it was my duty to invite him on a trip and show him that sometimes, fishing can be catching.

I met him at the lake near the evening and dark storm clouds were rolling overhead but never showed signs of rain. There was no wind and the air was warm, this I felt was the perfect fishing conditions for a little pond.

The minute I arrived and started setting up by the water, Greg ran over to me from the swings and insisted we play on the playground instead. He’d been waiting already and the playground nearby had been an irresistible source of entertainment.

“But we came here to do some fishing,” was my reply.

He ran the short distance to the playground and joined the game of tag already being played by the playgrounds residents while I continued to work pulling line through the guides, tying on hooks, and baiting up with worms I’d dug from my garden at home.

One rod was casted in to sit and wait while I took the other to a rocky section of the pond where I knew fish would cruise by in search of a meal. I flicked the line out a short distance from me and at a rod length away I dragged it back and forth before me like I was playing with a cat.

Only a few moments passed and bam! I had a hit. I set the hook and scooped into the net a skinny rainbow trout.

“Got one!” I shouted to Greg.

He ran over with a look of disbelief on his face.

“You caught that just now?” he asked.

“Yeah, today’s going to be a good day,” I smiled at him.

He pondered that for a moment.

“Can I try too?”

I smiled and handed him my re-baited rod.

“Here, I’ll show you what I was doing.”

That evening he fished with me the rest of the day and we caught more trout with some added bluegill and largemouth bass all within a certain length of shore.

I looked back and wondered if he’d been fishing with someone who knew what he was doing. My friend Greg couldn’t have known any better either way, and I was happy that this little experience was something that he enjoyed.

I see now that, especially with fishing, there is a stigma that it is boring, only for old people, and all it involves is sitting by a body of water and staring at a rod. While there are those moments, fishing is actually very hard and requires a large amount of knowledge to do it affectively. Most people I know don’t actually fish right and that is where people become unknowingly ignorant.

Just like any sport, fishing requires practice and an uncommon set of skills. In reality, fishing with a cheap Walmart Barbie rod is going to do more harm than good and if any little component of preparation is done wrong, it may throw the whole trip off.

There is a lot of ignorance regarding the outdoors and the environment. The best we can do for ourselves is to educate ourselves out of that state of mind and learn how to do things the right way. If a person ends up having a bad experience, many times it’s because they didn’t know what they were doing or the people they were with had been just as unskilled.

Outdoor recreation is a difficult branch of recreation and so the best way to experience it is with someone who knows what they are doing. But, with less and less outdoorsmen in the world, how many are there left to teach others? This is an unfortunate situation.

Backyard Camping

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As my little brother and I laid outside in hammocks, we briefly reminisced on making forts in the mystery and grandeur of our own backyard back when we were elementary school kids. I’m 18, he is 14, and yet tonight we planned to break in our new hammocks by spending a night outside under the stars.

We couldn’t help but laugh at our backyard camping, and as I looked up through the branches I thought of how much value I got from my yard. I learned about raspberries and hummingbirds and fire making all in the comforts of a glass of lemonade and a lunch meat sandwich. We did everything from catch snakes and hunt birds (tried anyway) and all these little memories have made a big impact on me as I grew into a young adult.

Being in the outdoors isn’t always about the farthest reaches of the woods or getting away from civilization, it’s about giving our biophilic sides the connection with the outdoors it needs. Getting out allows us to have an adventure in the most intimate setting possible.

Doing things like backyard camping need only a cheap fire pit (or a dirt pit) and smore sticks. Quite honestly these things can all be adapted for young and old ages of any background.

Tonight, in the open air, it matters not that I’m 10 feet from my home. What matters is that I feel the air on my skin, the sound of birdsong fills the air, and I’m experiencing something outside the box.

If you have a gentle night during the warm summer months, grab some blankets and try sleeping under the stars by your house. They are just as mystifying as anywhere else.

I promise.

Passion and I

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Really, passion isn’t something I curated. It’s something I realized from doing what made me happy. I had a relationship with the outdoors stemming from when I was little and as I carried that with me into my future, it began to become a larger and larger part of my life.

From before I was old enough to remember, my mom has an old picture of me in the front yard of our house with a little adventure backpack on. In the bag were things like a bug box, a net, tweezers, and a small array of other miscellaneous items that I carried around with me like my life depended on it. Looking at that picture now, it’s no wonder I am where I am at now in life having built up my adult adventure backpack and partaken in many wonderful and exciting trips throughout the years.

I don’t even remember that backpack but my life has always sided with the outdoors at some point or another and to this day continues to shape who I am. It makes me wonder if a passion is something we discover or something that lays within us that just hasn’t been fully realized.

Looking back in middle school, there were days I’d come home crying to my mom asking her why I was so different and why I liked the outdoors so much when it seemed like no one else cared. Still, there are days when I hate my passion. I hate being consumed by this aspect of my life because it’s something I have very little control over. Now, more often I know it’s because I have a passion and yet have few people to share it with. I have something that gives me fulfillment yet it never truly gives me a community. Precisely because my passion is unique, not many can truly share it with me.

That passion has been a double-edged sword all my life. The strong and direct feelings for the outdoors I have sometimes makes me feel alone and an outcast when I realize how limited I am with sharing that passion. Other times it gives me direction and drive in my life.

Most likely, that is where TheOutLife comes from. That desire to build a community around me that can talk with the same fervent passion of the outdoors as I can drives me to pursue artistic inspiration and media communication skills in the hope that others will join me.

Thus, this passion for searching out a community appears as a passion for my life. Passion is definitely seen as predominantly good but also runs the risk of having negative aspects as well.

My passion is also my voice. It’s why I write the way I do and live the way I see fit. It’s always in the back of my mind as a driver for my actions. Passion lies inherently in all of  us and is a well for why we strive to be more and do more even if it’s hard or difficult.

Here’s a point I found; passion has to get hard before it gets easy. I read recently that “Follow your passion is shitty advice” to which I immediately recoiled.

               “What the heck,” I thought to myself, “what are they trying to say?”

From what I read, follow your passion is shitty advice because many don’t know what their passion is and don’t know how to find it. It becomes bad advice because it assumes everyone has their one thing and only one thing. It assumes that you already have a passion to follow and that not having one makes you lazy or indifferent.

The real first step is, “Do what makes you happy.” THIS is where passion is given the opportunity to thrive.

If you feel happyfrom hiking, explore that energy. What about it makes you happy you think?

If you feel meaning from singing, sing all the time at 100%. What about it makes you feel like smiling?

Instead of follow your passion, look for instead what gives you meaning. Look for the things that put a smile on your face and make you happy and give you an outlet. From engaging in these things, you just might find a passion.

Passion isn’t something you have, passionate is something all humans are. The only thing that changes is zeroing in on the things that make us smile.

Out among the trees and the mountains and the lakes and rivers, I feel home.

And I always break a smile.

You are passionate and creative and revolutionary and strong. Give yourself a chance to grow before wishing yourself to bloom.

In my room, I have a plant known as a Christmas cactus. Every December the flowers flare out from it in a magnificent red and brighten up against the white, snowy world outside.

It’s a constant reminder to me that although our lives sometimes appear to lack illustrious beauty, sometimes we just have to wait for the right time to show it.

Everyone has passion. Instead,  pursue the things that give you meaning, that make you smile, and in the midst of having fun and enjoying life, a passion will develop.

Don’t follow your passion, follow your smile.

That’s where you’ll find meaning.

What is an Outdoorsman

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To me, being an outdoorsman is an immersive experience where I am not only in the outdoors, but I have a wide range of knowledge concerning outdoor pursuits. I partake in fishing, camping, hiking, and so each one of these outdoor activities fall under the ability of an outdoorsman.

See, to me if I was a hiker, I’d be a hiker. If I was a fisherman, I’d be a fisherman. The distinction of outdoorsman means many different outdoor pursuits fall under my general knowledge. That truly isn’t to say that any one path to enjoying the outdoors is any stronger or weaker than the other but that having a focus in one area of the spectrum grants a specific distinction.

I don’t measure the amount of time spent in the outdoors as any measure of outdoor recreation because though I am an outdoorsman at heart, the actual time I spend within it is far shorter than I would like it to be. In fact, if outdoor mindedness was a factor in “how big an outdoorsman I am” then I may not even be an outdoorsman at all. I’d even submit that the actual amount of outdoorsman would plummet if it was measured by time.

Just like anything else in the world, being aware of the outdoors and relishing it is based on the amount of knowledge one has. That’s why, even when we aren’t in the outdoors, we can still be adequately well informed in our craft whatever that may be. When it comes time to use that knowledge, an outdoorsman should be ready to apply it in many situations.

I read a book once that discussed the concept of a section of intelligence titled “nature smart” where an individual is attuned with his or her environment to the point of being acutely aware of the natural world. As a fisherman, I see fish and movement and ripples that other people may not be able to pick out at all because I have attuned my senses to that point of nature intelligence.

An outdoorsman does not have to be constantly outside as a hiker does not have to be constantly hiking. To be a true outdoorsman, I believe that one should have a certain amount of knowledge in many aspects of the outdoor realm and above all, have a true respect for and relationship with the environment.

An Outdoor Education

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I’ll say it. I have been having an increasingly difficult time justifying getting a formal school education with a mountain of debt on my shoulders only to take that 4-6 years of my life and maybe head into the future with the job I might want, but I’m not totally sold on it yet.

See, the main issue is that the vocation that I hope to succeed in someday is not exactly the main stream response to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and if my 12 years of public education is any indication, I’m not going to be taught anything I couldn’t already learn on my own within my given interests. Never in my education have I encountered something that might give me passion or knowledge about the environment except for one project in the fifth grade that I did for earth day. Even then, all I had done was make a poster that said, “Eat less meat,” and provided ten less then in-depth reasons why.

I want to be able to see the people and meet with those pushing for the environment, instead of sitting in a classroom and hearing about it.

I want to photograph and write and film and explore the world’s ecosystems and learn about new cultures and their own relationship with nature.

Just this one sentence, and I could go into a variety of different fields that would satisfy only one tenant each of my desire to see and explore. The only solution I see is to go to school to be an adventurer and that really isn’t a mainstream major.

I believe that the environment is of the utmost importance in our lives, and I want to be able to explore that relationship through:

Food (What do other cultures grow and eat? Let’s try it.).

People (How does this person interact with the environment around them? What can I learn from it?)

Exploration (How can I show people that this exists out here?)

Education (How can I educate people on what needs to be done? What has been done? What can we do?)

I want to meet people and see how they live and make connections with those that need their voices heard. Fighting for the environment is all about giving the voiceless a voice and that includes the people that live among the land.

I want to protect the bears in Alaska and the coral in the pacific and the topsoil on the plains because every one of these components constitute a portion of the global ecosystem and each one has their own culture and story.

School does not teach me any of that. It does not. Twelve years of school and I would know nothing of the environment and our natural world unless I actively and tirelessly seeked it out.

TheOutLife is thinking and eating and living outside the boxes of our lives but if I spend my time through school that won’t necessarily teach me any of that than what is the point for me to go through it? If my end goal is to settle down, own a home, and twiddle my thumbs through life when I have the whole world at my fingertips, then what is the point?

I started my photographic and writing journey with no voice and no view and no knowledge of my own but the very little bit of information I started with. From reading and studying the internet, the world’s free school system, I learned and clarified my own knowledge and existence far more than I feel the school system has.

I taught myself how to use a camera and write without an academic voice. I became an un-teacher, removing the things that made me a cookie cutter human being and sought to find my own passions.

School gave me self-doubt and “be realistic” and black and white answers to gray questions that all contrived to show me what I was required to limit myself to. Somehow, lucky for me, I stumbled upon the concept that continues to shape my life and existence, TheOutLife.

When I talk with people they comment on the brand and my message and my words with respect and admiration for what I am doing. School never taught me to write a blog or take photos or care about the environment. I did that. My parents did that. The experiences I have had in my life did that.

It seems to me that a desk is a good way to stay sedentary. And to leave that desk is a good way to fly.

This comes from my senior year in high school. When my friends and family tell me:

“You’re so lucky that you know what you want to do.”

“You’re lucky you have a passion.”

“You’re so creative.”

“You’re unique for having a plan.”

“I wish I could do that.”

School didn’t make me this. It didn’t give me this. I cannot say for sure what a college education will do for me but many people have told me that I will love it. They tell me that there will be people who care and people who have a plan and people with passion. On top of that I will get an education in the field I most love.

I’m hoping that when I go off to college my classes are less filled with apathy and more filled with life. Right now, school is bringing me back from the existence I hope to lead.

If college is more of the same…. I don’t know what I will do.

Nature and Ecocentrism

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I read a book titled “Wilderness and the American Mind” that was essentially the history of the human/nature relationship. Taking place over the course of many years it followed how the American public viewed the natural world throughout history.

We as a nation went through many opinions of the environment and some of them stood out to me.

There was a period where the American mind saw the natural untamed wilderness as it’s jewel but only when compared against England’s dark and built upon wilderness. Our vast canyons and thick forests opposed to marshland and crumbled stone buildings incited a patriotic sense of our environment. We were proud.

There was a period where the wilderness was a thing to be conquered and tamed. We built houses and felled trees and cultivated the land with our modern plant species showing man’s ingenuity.

And there was a time where the American mind saw the environment as a commodity. Trees and rocks and animals were all varying sizes of dollar signs.

Now, the book I read didn’t talk explicitly of our modern view, but I think we have an assortment of the opinions with one pervading theme; humanity and the natural environment are separate.

Sometimes we interpret human welfare and environmental welfare as separate issues. In truth, the health of both “worlds” mirror each other because they are part of the same sphere. Environmental health directly translates to human societal health and vice versa. Coexisting, working with human ingenuity and environmental processes together, that is where the American Mind needs to go. Our lives depend on it.

Originally, I wrote this as an Instagram post (everything above this sentence) because my Instagram gets more consistent updates then my blog usually gets. What I’d like to do is expand my ideas by way of explaining an ecocentric world view compared to anthropocentric.

An ecocentric world view is one where society is founded upon and worked around a nature-centered system of values as opposed to anthropocentric (human centered).

The world we live in now, human society as we know it, has been almost exclusively in the latter mindset as our species conquered and overcame many of the hurdles that the natural world threw at us. The more we vanquished diseases and grew crops and cut trees, the prouder we became of our separation from the natural world. The outdoors not only became out but also away from humankind’s indoor utopia with its sterilized plastics and chemically soaked wood products. I understand why adopting this was necessary for the survival of our species but we have managed to evolve past the point where our lives are regulated by normal biological processes.

We have been so successful with conquering viruses and food shortages that the only time we truly feel the effects of them is when there are mass epidemic.

We have gotten so good at fishing that many boats are able to “nuke” entire systems of fish and move on in the hope that their numbers will increase at a later date.

We use so much wood and plant so little to replace it that all types of tree growth begins to decline.

Granted, these statements may be pessimistic in a way, but I believe that the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is one (sound familiar?) and that is best achieved by adopting a world view opposite to what we hope to change. (I.e. our global ecosystem is under attack, and so we  must fix it)   We must recognize our faults before anything gets better.

Look, ecocentrism does not connotate less value in the human existence, and I posit that it in fact means we place even more value on the quality of human life.

Ecocentrism is not an extremist view of our world, it’s realistic. It is the natural order of things.

Environmental issues work in the same order as the snowball effect where one event will trigger the collapse of others which will in turn trigger other snowballs to roll.

Here’s an example; our oceans are on the edge.

See, coral reefs provide the foundation for the clear majority of our fish species livelihoods as they act as both a home, a food source, and a natural water filter. However, coral is extremely sensitive to changes in the water from oil spills, raising temperatures, and changing Ph levels from the freshwater being flushed into it from melting ice. “Extremely sensitive” means that coral can and will die from these changes.

Small fish rely on the reef to raise young and without them the population of many prey species of fish significantly drops.

Which in turn lowers food populations for predator species which in turn lowers their populations as well.

Even while this is occurring, fishing boats indiscriminately scoop up the struggling populations until the amount of remaining fish is barely enough to feed the local residents much less the fish food industry.

What we do and the way we live needs to keep in mind the environment.

These are simple statements but true:

If there are less fish in the ocean, there is less food for people.

If there is poison smog blanketing a city, people will get sick and many will die (especially those who can’t afford expensive air purifiers or a house of any sort).

If pesticide is sprayed into the air and rivers and fields, we breathe it in, drink it, and eat it with our food.

The environment is not an easy fix. It’s not. That’s why we have to start now before it gets worse.

It’s not a preemptive move, because we’ve already been attacked, it’s self-preservation.

That is a very human response, to a very human accident.