Category Archives: Blog

Chasing Life: A Pointless Race

I wake up at five every morning in order to get a jumpstart on my day and most of the time it feels like the day got much longer than it’d normally be. Every Wednesday I’ll post a writing prompt and respond to it in whatever way I wish in order to challenge myself in new writing endeavors.

PROMPT: Grab a random book, flip to a random page, and the first sentence on the first page is your prompt. You can incorporate the quote into your writing, describe it, interpret it, do whatever you wish.

 My sentence is, “The man was speaking the language of alchemy.” From The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

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The rocks with their grinding tones grumble along the river bottoms and down steep valleys when their precarious stance is disturbed. With their gray-worn skins and rough scars they sit patiently on Earth. He, however, walked.

Among the stones his withered hands reflected their marbled countenance and veiny streaks ran through like quart veins in the bedrock.

His voice, too, rasped out in a mountain of rock carving off the face of a mountainside.

And old he was, oh so old and withered that not much more of him could quite keep up with the unity of process human beings exist in. In other words that great progression of a million processes keeping all in homeostasis was mostly broken, his own hard determination keeping him from fading out like windblown sand against stone.

And still he searched, endlessly, rocks crunching underfoot, towards the answer to a question he long has seeked.

The trees above creaked in response to his weary joints, the weight of life making it harder to move, harder to take that next lunge over land. And while the leafy fingers fluttered and great branches swung in a wave, the man missed these subtle things.

So hell-bent on his own humanity he always failed to see it was all around him.

We shan’t tell him that.

We must let him find it.

And so with muscles that fought against an unwavering mind, he pushed forth into the ever closing distance. Getting closer to absolutely nothing that meant everything to him.

The streams he passed twinkled a wink in his direction and its gentle laughter swirled around his deaf senses. As he kneeled to drink those two blue eyes started back, asking him to see before it’s too late. But the eyes were blue and mixed with the waters rippling extension of wind springing by lightly in the warm air.

He no longer felt that, however. He no longer felt his hair tousled by playful hands reminiscent of a joyous father or sun on the skin left by the gentle lips of a loved one.

It was simply no longer his way to be.

Eyes forward, ever watching and ever blind to the lives of the non-living, he kept walking.

Years and years and empty years this continued like it always had, his body now sinking lower to the ground, his life now reaching the end of an endless land.

And still he did not understand.

Ignorance, pitiful ignorance it was to believe in his ideals.

In his mind he remembered the man in that black empty box talking without saying anything, helping without extending a hand, letting him in on an incredible opportunity.

“The man was speaking the language of alchemy,” he thought.

And as that one thought consumed him, drove him to walk on the never ending treadmill of desire, he reached his present point, wearied, broken, fading away from his one last thought leaning against a great oak tree.

And his last thought was this;

“I wish I had stopped to watch the Hawks in the sky and the Trees in the fall and the great rush of Water against my skin.”

As his mind faded he looked up at the great blue sky, through the shimmering green leaves, and realized with a fading breath that life wasn’t meant to be chased.

It was meant to be lived.

And so we learn that the meaning of life is constantly, everlastingly all around us.

That’s the power of Nature.

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Motivation versus Focus

We need focus. In a country and a time where distractions are at an all time high it’s a wonder that most people get any work done that’s genuinely productive. The main issue is simply a lack of focus. Motivation implies a personal drive to attain something where a person is responsible for holding oneself accountable for all actions and resulting reactions. However, if we get too lost in the fallacy of motivation then we’ll always be stuck in an endless cycle of looking for that motivation or looking for inspiration and that’s many times why we get writer’s block. It’s the expectation that something will come to us and that prompts us to pursue it.

Of course there are a ton of situations where it’s necessary to find motivation, but I challenge us to find FOCUS.

Waiting for the light bulb moment works in so many situations that we tend to fall back on it if nothing comes to mind. But we’d be wise to look at the last time we got stuck and see how focused we were on that single task before us. It’s a little known fact that multi-tasking is a myth. A human being cannot do more than one task at once without attention falling low in the other areas.

That brings up an important idea.

If we decide to train ourselves to focus on that one goal or that one frame of mind then all aspects within that sphere of focus will get our attention. It’s not obsessing, it’s focusing. So we need a switch in the frame of mind that the hardest workers or most successful people are more creative, more motivated, and smarter than the average person. The reality of the situation is their focus on attaining their specific goals are so centered that at a certain point there are few things that can actually distract them. This mastery of focus is an art form as is meditation and learning to live in the moment.

Whatever your current project is, whatever you hope to attain in the world, focus solely on the things you can do to attain that goal.

Focus is our strongest tool in a world constantly begging for our attention.

Describe Your Dream Home (Writing Prompt)

Therapy Session

The foggy dew on the window corners harden as icy wind flows into the room. The storm he entered for only a moment though it was moment enough to seep into exposed skin and rob his fingers of youthful dexterity. The cold is like that to all living things, causing even the young to creak and ache and shudder with the chilly misgivings of sleep.
But sleep is not what he seeked among the wood pile outside stacked high in the future hope of warmth. In fact, it was quite the opposite as he dug through the snow after the trees he felled upon finding them dead, dry, and forgotten. He was keeper of these woods and he paid that position the reverence it deserved. Even in his own struggle against that last frontier an empathy for all living things brought him back to the present moment. The way they smelled when it’s warm out and the inspired feeling of fresh baked bread as it steams on a cooling tray the picture of summer days and bubbly air. And yet even in this god-awful snow the cold seemed to make the woods smell that much more of the earth, like the nearby lake as the breeze brings in a pungency reserved for fertile earth and damp autumn leaves.
“Summer never leaves these trees,” he thought quietly. And indeed, once lit the wood relinquishes the tree’s memories of croaking frogs and lightning bugs and the rays of sunset caressing its bark and warming the nutrients that flow beneath it. So that even in the dead of the coldest winter nights, warm summer sunsets can be found glaring proudly from a blazing hearth still throwing sharp shadows around anything that gets in its way.
And it did so now, the snow tamped down on the mat in front of the door began to melt and run as his breathe reminded the flame of its own life. This early morning blue hue that filtered in through the many windows of the house brought on the look of cold and yet with each exhale the blue was merged with a bright flicker from the inside and together the atmosphere was that beautifully natural white.
It was soft, gentle light that would more readily bathe a photo on the granite countertop then wake a sleeping person and jostle them in their rest. No matter what, he loved how every inch of the house felt like his, every part holding the stories of peace in the everyday. It was comfort. The house made him feel as if he was in an endless embrace from the people he held most dear, a contentment seldom felt in the world outside. The cooking tools fit his grasp and the pots and pans and plates and cups he used were each, individually his favorite. He figures, “If you don’t like something, don’t buy it,” and thus his house and the contents within were familiar and have been used for a long time- over the course of his life so far.
Breakfast he thinks to himself, errantly scratching his dog’s ears as he does every morning, enjoying the companionship he feels even while being utterly alone. It’s okay for him, this moment, as the sun rises he will be given the strength to deal with the day but for now, his weakness is his strength. The melancholy relieves the weight of existence. The dogs and plants around the rooms reminding him he can care for life, even when that feeling evades him.
He enters the kitchen and with one button, the music begins to pull him from the cliff-edges in his mind. Placed purposely, the sound encompasses him, the waves of sound swirling and replacing the air around his body with an air of wistfulness. The snap of the fire ticking in time like a metronome counting down the days of the universe. It’s important that he easily slip into that deep melancholia for the alternative is binding, trapping, and steals away his strength in the form of mentally exhausting running on a hamster wheel.
He pauses to look up at the spices hung with care from the rack above and marvels at its uncanny similarity to a forest, upside down and swaying gently, but a forest nonetheless.
How amazing it is to find garlic kin to a forest he muses and smiles gently. Already, he knows, the early hours offer introspection not like evening. In the morning he is reborn to think not of past events of the day but future events as the day moves on as if he is naked then, sleep making him now blank enough for any thought to come through the fold.
He decides on simple, eggs, the sharp crack causing the dog to nudge closer and the sound of it frying and sizzling not unlike that of a roaring river nearby as it’s muffled through the trees. This one is not for him of course, but for the other sleeping inhabitant, the one he takes pride in knowing as if every-day he meets with them anew. With the morning comes the life of those around him as they wake and shake off sleep and blink absentmindedly in the diffused light. He finds simply the act of cradling warm mugs in cold hands beautiful and inspiring so that every day is a reason to fall in love with anything exhibiting those tendencies. People are fascinating in a way that one would pick a red rose and realize how intricately the pedals seem to spiral further and further into the center.
He likes the granite in the kitchen because every drop of spice and sauce and dry basil leaves paint the surface in rich, contrasting hues. It’s almost a shame to clean it up as if one is erasing the color placed lovingly on the blank surface. Cooking is an art form kin to the writing he does on blank pages of a notebook and the recipes he assembles on those white countertops are a story of taste and a new form of adventure he finds addicting and altogether alluring.
But, the finished product, the one placed on the gnarled wooden table, that is meant to be enjoyed with eyes closed seeing the colors of smoked paprika and minced parsley against the palate.
The whole house is like that really. The way pinecones smell of cinnamon and the spice rack permeates the kitchen and the adjoining rooms with unifying fragrances while the warmest room with the crackling fire smells of the forests history buried deep within the wood’s core.
It feels as if the whole world is here, the whole of existence and what should be seen as worthwhile kept for one’s amusement in homegrown garlic hanging from a spice rack, the wine bottles plentiful and yet used slowly, blissfully and always in conjunction with conversation that is rich and purposeful and fulfilling. It’s held in the way that although not now, every tool is meant to help explore. The food eaten helps power adventures, the fishing rods and tents and sleeping bags begging to be used on a faraway riverbank, the cameras to take photos of life outside the trapping walls, and the shoes and clothes and bags meant to be taken to the world so far away from here, this moment, this pause like a deep breathe in the chase of what it truly means to live.
I finish my food and hear footsteps enter the kitchen behind me and bare feet splash the dark floor with color. The clink of silverware comes closer, my reverie is broken, my focus disturbed, and yet, now, in this moment, it’s okay.
I can feel the smile trace its way across features that have done it a thousand times before as I turn around and say through the grin,
“Good morning, sleepyhead.”
“Sleep well?”

 

Writing for Change

Taylor View

I keep thinking that something is missing from TheOutLife brand, and I wonder often about what that spark is that’s there, and I just can’t quite put my finger on it. And then I think that’s it’s dawned on me. See, I’ve been using social media as my blog, writing long posts and long essays centered around the idea that people would be attracted to the photo and thus read the caption, and I could then write on the blog too. But Instagram and Facebook aren’t meant to be platforms where people post long essays and then wait for people to respond, they are almost advertising portfolios, I have a blog, I should use it. So, I am going to move over my daily writing posts to my blog every morning and evening in order to gain a wider audience. Hopefully, my photos attract the right people and they feel inclined to click on the “link in the bio”. Also, I need to do a better job of talking about the things that I am actually learning or the things that are changing my life in order to represent a better representation of the thinking that goes on in my head on a daily basis. Towards that end, my photos go to my insta, my writing goes on this here ol’ blog. I’m not a videographer, and I am not good at taking videos at all. But I can write and still post videos here and there and they don’t have to be on YouTube I’m finding out. This is what growth looks like, I hope…

Journaling About Nature: My Therapy Session

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There was a period of time during which I went through a significant amount of inner turmoil and had all these thoughts about life and existence swirling through my mind for no apparent reason than to bury me under stress. It was miserable, I was lost, hopeless, and scared to think about anything that could carry me too far into the endless rabbit holes of worry.

And then I found Nature in the blank pages of a notebook.

I didn’t realize it at the time but when I began writing I found myself gravitating more and more towards topics of the outdoors. Sometimes I’d write on the memories I had and the way the rivers swept away my fears and it was just me getting out all the pent-up feelings I had inside of me trying to claw their way out.

We all go through things that challenge us, things that force us down, and sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere to go. I think part of that is the fact that we have nowhere else to put our energy and emotion and they end up building past the breaking point.

I write often of the need for outlets and a lot of times I wonder if people interpret that as physical outlets, like sports as a form of increasing feel good chemicals in the body. However, I wonder if most people have enough time or attention to find mental outlets. A way to get thoughts out of our heads that don’t need to be there.

They say that when we sleep, our brains actually get rid of memories we don’t need as if sleep is the action that cleans the space for us. There was one instance where I read that a man who had a 100% photographic memory ended up a veritable vegetable because he was overwhelmed by the things he had in his head. While extreme, to me it indicates that thoughts have a tangible form and take up space in the memory card that is our mind.

Beyond sleep, how do we control that? How do we clean the space of useless junk and apply the old phrase “simplify, simplify” to the space in our heads?

I think we need a space to place our thoughts. Whether for you that means writing, painting, photography, or videography, I firmly believe that art cleans out the mind in a constructive, non-destructive way. It presents both mindful relaxation and a focus. Do not try multi-tasking, that’s a myth. Just sit or walk or run and produce exactly what makes you feel as if the clutter is being removed.

Once we find a medium, the next step is to find a focus. My medium is a camera and notebook, my muse is mother nature. Wherever your mind is at, take care of it. Sometimes you’ll find treasures in the dark spaces that you didn’t even know were there.

My Fear of Photoshop and Authentic Photography

LightRoom Edit

After having downloaded the free trial of Lightroom in no small way do I understand the inherent capabilities of a high-quality photo editor. However, I worry that its use is a double-edged sword. Part of me is hesitant to change a photo too far past the original out of respect to natural photos. On the other hand, as a photographer friend told me, “using photo editors doesn’t change the fact that you have to take a good photo in the first place.”
At my high school, the photography class they offered was much more focused on edit first and take photo second. In fact, the first few WEEKS were comprised of learning how to effectively use photoshop before the class ever touched a camera.
This kind of view towards fix the problems instead of not making mistakes in the first place run rampant in all aspects of American culture and it’s evident of a loss of value in quality. The fact that we want to change what we do have to be good instead of making what we do have that much better is a backwards philosophy. Photo editors like filters and otherwise editing can send the wrong message to people who would be much better off just learning to take photos.
There is a piece of the puzzle that I definitely can agree with and that is the fact that photo editing can be another form of artistic identity and to creatively edit one’s photos is an extra step in the art form of photography. I suppose some people could argue that it’s an unnecessary step, still, it’s a step that can make photography your art form above someone else’s.
This is a step I’m just now discovering, and it’s something I expect to change me in small ways. It’s another step in my art. What is your opinion of photo editing software?

A True Relationship With the Outdoors

 

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“Obligations have no meaning without conscience, and the problem we face is the extension of the social conscience from people to land.” -Aldo Leopold from “A Sand County Almanac” (Underlined material my own work)

It’s a humbling experience when you read the quote that defines for you what your own belief system is when viewing the things that will cause true environmental change. As a journalist with my high school newspaper for a few years, I wonder at the impact news coverage of the environment actually has on people’s perception of the environment.
For a period of time I wanted to become an environmental journalist in order to spread environmental awareness beyond the position I have in society and reach a broader amount of people. But as I see so often the news coverage that the ice caps are melting and the rainforests are cut and the ocean is being polluted I wonder if society simply grows desensitized to that constant barrage of doom.

It is apparent to me that something else is required to make people not only care but also actively work to make the environment as healthy and pure as possible.
Through reading books such as those by Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N) and Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass) I discovered a pattern in people who sought after true environmental change. Those people who took a true interest in the environment claimed to also have a relationship with it that transcended simple forms of recreation.

Enter today and the quote that struck me by Aldo Leopold. The fact that “obligations have no meaning without conscience” describes the fact that all the work environmentalists may do will not always matter personally to the people they influence.

Take for example the fact that my school recycles as often as possible and yet the new incoming freshman class left a pile of trash bags in the bin destined for the landfill, while at the same time leaving all recycle options relatively empty. Although the school tries its best to reach a zero-waste goal, most of the students still don’t care or put forth the effort. Why? I believe that most people do like fishing and camping or hiking, but they don’t have the obligatory respect for the land that comes with actively trying to make a difference.

More people need to have had the experience of finding an “extension of the social conscience from the (self) to the land” and this formed relationship must be PERSONAL.

It is a sort of reawakening that occurs when we realize we owe the land around us so much more respect than we give it now.

That is what I believe when I speak of a “relationship.” Fishing is my favorite example. On one hand, I can fish and take that photo or hold that trophy up and leave the river with my memories of fun and leave it at that. Yeah, I like nature, I like fishing.

Or, I can catch that fish and take one home or let it go and either way interpret the moment as if I am reentering the food chain of the river, not as something fully human, but as something more predator and natural to the river ecosystem. This is my relationship with the natural world. I find myself resenting the trash I see and doing less of a sport and more of a returning to a lifestyle that my ancestor lived in. The health of the land directly impacts my health in enjoying it and it is my personal RESPONSIBILITY to keep it healthy.

This is my relationship. This is why I want to see and will inspire change in the world. That’s my ecological ethic and the reason why I am an environmentalist.

Environmentalism and What That Means to Me: A Collection of Thoughts

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That very real and very specific emotion we call inspiration is very different for all of us and in fact there are easily just as many people as there are sources of that profound moment. I think one of the things that truly makes it different is how people respond to being inspired. For me, the outdoors inspires me to write and share my experiences with other people in the hope that they may go out and try something new as well.
I guess put simply, my inspiration works to inspire others. Christopher McCandless (A.K.A Alexander Supertramp) once wrote “Happiness only real when shared,” and I wonder if that is inherently part of the equation. I surely like to have my moments of independence and solitude but when I come back from most any excursion I find myself wishing I could have documented just what I was feeling better. It’s not showing off in any way, but the wish that other people will want to follow in my footsteps.
I want to avoid making people feel jealous or feel like they are missing out on life as that tends to happen so often through social media, while at the same time making the time I spend outdoors as alluring as possible.
For me it’s never just fishing or just hiking but a full mind and body experience of getting out in the natural world and enjoying one’s time there to reflect and enjoy mother nature. I always struggle with the best way to convey that love and passion without seeming to aggrandize or exaggerate my experiences.
It’s beautiful and ugly, raw and refined, emotional and expressionless, and at the end of the day I hope that other people find this relationship as well. I don’t fish to catch fish. I fish to experience the process and environment and philosophy in fishing. I don’t take photos to show off, I try to capture moments and feelings and experiences in 1/1000th of a second.
The “outdoors” is so much greater than the sum of its parts that it’s hard not to be in love with the natural world and all it stands for.
Even that in itself is hard to explain. I believe that the reason environmentalists so often resort to pathos to further their messages is because so much of what they stand for is because they genuinely care about experiencing things on an emotional level. They cannot explain to someone easily about care for the habitat along banks of rivers until that person truly realizes the weight that the area carries for the health and well-being of the entire river ecosystem. It’s not just fishing. It’s a relationship with the natural world through fishing.
Also, those that have the gift of art and a love for the outdoors have a responsibility to bridge the gap between science and the layman using the universal messages in photography and painting and writing. Although only two weeks into my first year of college, I’m realizing why it is so difficult to try to relate to those who are not as educated or not as aware of the world around them. Being truly educated means you can view the world in such a way that you are constantly capable of connecting things to bigger questions, not the shallow, surface equation of things that occur in life.
A formal education is of course not the only way to find this state of mind, but it’s no surprise that there is a significant correlation between one’s level of intelligence and perceived level of conservative thinking or not being open to new things, new people, and new ways of viewing the world.
My goal with my college career is to take a college education and meld it with a very personal and involved approach of environmentalism through the use of social media and content creation to try and bridge the gap between the science and the people.
We are told so often that “the ice caps are melting,” “rainforests are being cut,” and “pollution is producing smog” that pretty soon we are desensitized to hearing about it and no longer care or perceive what that means. The people that try hardest are those personally effected by it.
Now, we come full circle to inspiration. I believe that in order to be inspired to protect the environment, all people need to not just spend more time outdoors but have a better relationship to it when they do go out.
To me taking someone fishing does not mean they care about nature, they just like fishing. We as outdoorsman and outdoor enthusiasts need to instill a respect for the things we do along with the time we spend outside doing it.
That’s is the OutLife. That is the message I started. And that is the philosophy I believe in.

Metal Working and Need for Knowledge in The Great Outdoors

Technique

“Well, that doesn’t look too difficult, does it?”

I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where we’re attempting to do something new and find that the process for pulling it off is much harder than we had anticipated. Perhaps whatever we happened to see beforehand was done by a master or teacher who has years of experience on something you are just starting. This happens often in my life where the intricacies of doing something are actually much more detailed then I had thought.

I think it probably has to do with the fact that a lot of my hobbies are skill or technique oriented so when I try to attempt something for the first time, my own lack of skill is apparent.

Oftentimes, the reason for why people don’t make it outside for fishing, camping, hunting, or hiking is based around the fact that they don’t know what to do or how to do it right and to a certain extent that makes sense. I wouldn’t want to do something if I had no idea what to do which is why I always turn to the internet for help. However, the internet is so full of information that it all seems like all things are based on personal opinion.

How to compost, how to save energy, how to fish, all these things end up having a trillion methods.

The blacksmith in Japan I was taught by recently showed me an extremely eye-opening example of the difference between a master and a beginner which is shown in the above picture. He demonstrated that his hammering technique with proper heat maintenance resulted in a much smoother and refined metal grain then that of what he interpreted as a beginner hammering technique. To me, the way the blacksmith hit the metal piece was the same, to my untrained eye it appeared that nothing in his actions had changed.

The outdoors is a scary place. To some people especially who have never pursued certain outdoor activities, it’s extremely daunting to have them do something for the first time that they had no previous knowledge of.

Therefore, it is imperative that we who know photography, writing, fishing, conservation, and cooking share what we know with as many people as possible because something that may come as instinct to us may be alien to another person. In this age of knowledge at our fingertips, real people doing real things is still the best teacher than any YouTube video or online article is ever going to be.

The refinement of metal grain would have been lost to me had someone not shown me the difference in small strikes of a hammer. Then, my new knowledge has lead me into an appreciation for handmade metal goods made with the utmost craftsmanship.

The outdoors is like that. Much of what is touted about getting out and about or changing our lifestyles falls on the ears of people who need help finding the first step and the following steps down a certain path. If we’ve been down it, then it should become our responsibility to lead others.

The question now becomes; what is your metal, and how do you refine it?

 

Forged Knives, Handmade Goods, and How It Affects Our Natural State of Mind

Fire

(Photo of master blacksmith at AsanoKajiya handmade knife and Japanese sword company. Check out their site here.)

I think often of how when society leans further and further towards cheap, machine-mass produced goods, we lose an aspect of what is natural in the loss of value towards human made goods. I’m not saying that it will always be any better quality, but for a lot of the goods, people produce them because they feel strongly about what they make.

Having and owning goods made with that passion or attention to pride in one’s goods is an aspect of “natural” that I place great trust in.

The reason why I have such a passion and interest in the natural world is because I have a relationship with the outdoors. Along this same road, people who have a passion for the goods they produce have that special relationship with their work that is missing from most machine-made items. The human connection to the work is strongest when things are made by hand.

TheOutLife focuses heavily on Nature and the importance it plays on our lives, but nature is not only for the forests and lakes and streams but also applies to how close something is to natural. And natural goods have always been handmade. By bearing in mind that natural goods are made naturally, we gain a new way to connect with the life and wild world around us.

We need to create a pervading view that human beings are not above work and use the world in the same way a beaver may build his den or a bird builds its nest. They don’t use tools to live, they produce the means to live themselves.

Automation brings people further and further away from what being a responsible consumer means. It’s consumerism that cuts swathes of forests and automation that means people never see what the cost of living does to the natural world. Getting our hands dirty or seeing the people who do is what truly makes us value the things we own.

Recently, I took a trip to Japan and had the opportunity to forge a knife with a master blacksmith in his shop. As he talked about his art, he said that although he loves and sees beauty in his finished products, it’s the process that he sees the most beauty in. He takes his pride from the process, not the result. This view is never going to come from a machine assembly line like it does when someone has a hand in the process.

So, how do handmade knives correlate to the belief in what is natural?

They are made by hand.

And it is the human hand that will make or break the natural world.