Category Archives: Passion/Creativity

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?

 

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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.

An Elk’s Call

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Only once, early in the morning, as the sun was barely coming up over the mountains, I was lifted awake by the piercing call of an Elk, shouting his wishes for companionship. Ever since, the elk has been my favorite animal. There’s just something else about the way the it’s call echoes hauntingly through the trees.

Moments like that where your life is intertwined within the natural world lack severely in the urban landscape and it’s the elks call I crave to hear again. It’s a sign that the silence around me has emptied the air of polluted vibrations and the calls of the earth can be heard at last.

In the city, the noise pollution is so heavy and constant that there is little you can do to escape it.

I’ve seen and heard that some much prefer the city soundscape. They say the hubbub of the city is indicative of the life thriving among its skyscrapers and asphalt. The landscape is alive with the crawling of cars and trains and busses and bikes and people, all traveling from their homes with a destination in mind. This is contrasted against the silence of the forest as dead, unnerving and boring; something easy to forego for the city sounds.

I see it differently.

The silence of the forest is the sound of thought, of a quieter form of energy. It’s different from the din of the city because it’s sensory stimulation that gives us only what we need, nothing more nothing less. In the wilderness, our body resets to a gentle thrum of life. We eat, we walk, we see, we hear; all at a level of purity.

The city is gluttonous. The sounds are loud and pervading with signs telling you to buy more, be beautiful, and that to live richly is the sure way to happiness. The air is thick with the smell of food and gasoline and humanity’s greed.

As I sit in my room, with the window open I will list the sounds as I hear them for a moment.

A finch chirping

The highway

A car with a trashed muffler

The car pushing past my room and turning into my street followed closely by the next car behind it.

An airplane flying overhead.

A truck coming down the street with a bed full of rickety ladders.

If my memory serves me correctly, sitting at a camp or on the edge of a lake means I will hear

Lapping water

Birds

Chipmunks

Wind through the forest

And… wait… that’s it. Yet although the city and outdoors have a certain level of constant noise, the difference is machine versus life. I understand that the city is this wild, frenetic mixing pot of people and sounds and ideas but whether or not we realize it the sound is deafening.

Humanity’s downfall will come when we reach a point where we can longer hear ourselves think. After all, thinking is the only thing we have. In the absence of claws and fangs and strength and speed, the only thing we have is human ingenuity.

Let’s not wait until it’s gone.

Let’s seek out the Elk’s call.

 

Cloudy Mornings and Meditative Brain Waves

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Studies have shown that the brain produces patterns that mimic those seen during meditation when it responds to nature or natural scenes and suggests that it is indeed meditative to hike, fish, or camp in the outdoors. These waves, known as Alpha waves, are present during deep relaxation and are thought to produce an organic sense of calm and peacefulness. This sense of comfort is closely associated with natural phenomena called “fractals” that are a specific complex pattern that our human brains instantly pick up and recognize. Because of the brains ability to predict these patterns it becomes less distracted by extraneous sensory stimulation and leads to a meditative state. It’s almost as if with nothing to react to, our entire body takes a deep breathe.

In normal life within cities and urban areas, our brains are constantly reacting to some sort of stimulation and never have a chance to slow down. Whether or not we realize it, this high-strung state of attention impacts our very ability to think. The cars we see as fast-moving predators, the airplane flying overhead distracts our ability to hear, and then our phones and TV’s and music further dampen the quiet thoughts that swirl gently in the back of our mind.

Nature, at least to our senses, is predictable and stable so it gives our brains a chance to breathe.

Now, as I write this blog post I’m sitting on a porch swing the morning after a rain storm, the air is chilled, and the sky is a beautiful mess of clouds slowly undulating as they make their way through the air. The thing is, I can FEEL those brain waves. It’s in the way the next thought and next sentence comes through without thinking as if this entire paragraph is already written in my head and all that comes next is to put it down on paper. I can hear the cooing of a morning dove and the way the birds tweet happily in the wet air, their song pausing only to eat a surfaced worm and fly it back to their young.

Although I sit on the front porch at my home right smack in an urban neighborhood, I am able to find the flow of life thick and deep when the world and light is subdued by mother nature’s natural events.

Watching Robins catch worms, writing, swinging on the porch swing with my golden retriever snuggled next me, it’s little wonder why inspiration hits strongest when nature is present. I’m so familiar with this sense of peace that it’s become an addiction for me to seek out and experience.

The world outside is beautiful. If you’re not already out there, go find where you feel happiest.

Go find some Alpha waves.

Real Memories and Manufactured Feelings: The Difference Between TV and OutLife

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During a recent camping trip, a bolt of lightning struck a nearby mountain and the resulting thunder was the loudest and most severe crack I think I’ve ever heard. Immediately, those at camp looked at each other in shock and the ones out gathering fire wood came running back in a half panic lacking any of the wood they had gathered. I was laughing in the way you’d laugh after getting off an intense roller coaster while some of my group wished for that sound to never again happen in their lifetime. Then, if that weren’t enough, the following downpour was so heavy that we were sitting on the table portion of our picnic table and huddled under the canopy above us. To make things even worse, the smoke from our sputtering fire started to push under the canopy after we had lowered it and so it was a cold, wet, burning lung mess as we were truly caught between two terrible options, pouring rain or choking smoke.

After the rain, bleary eyed and coughing, we emerged from under the canopy, raised it back up, and continued the evening preparations. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that at this point we had to use flashlights to see anything.

It was a heck of a way to spend the evening.

But, I absolutely loved every second of it and have decided that it is among my favorite camping memories.

It was scary like a roller coaster ride.

The moment was riveting as a car chase.

And it was as difficult as the final boss in a video game.

But, and the reason why I used simple examples, is that these things I compared lightning to are manufactured examples of organic thoughts and emotions. The video games and theme parks are just attractions that monetize the exact same feelings that we can have in the outdoors for free.

Theme parks sell fear and adrenaline when the ear-splitting roar of a thunder crack and flashing lightning will inspire in the mind and body the same fight or flight response.

Television and movies sell excitement and edge-of-your-seat anticipation when the first few seconds after a lightning strike will do the same thing as you wait for the thunder to follow.

The whole situation itself was time consuming to work around and difficult to deal with as there were elements outside of my control that I had to deal with.

In every single aspect of the outdoors there are things that will show you the beauty and danger and magic in the world but we insist on receiving those feelings manufactured and reconfigured for us on TV screens and attractions.

Fear is fear as excitement is excitement, there is no chemical difference from fear adrenaline and excited adrenaline except for your own frame of reference for that situation.

When we experience something, see and taste and feel and hear, that thing becomes a memory of something we did, not a memory of someone else’s life. For this reason, I find it hard to play video games or watch TV anymore as those actions are so empty that many times they cease to perform any function at all but a way to kill time. As humans, our lifespans are short and precious yet within that time there is so much that we could actually do.

Yet a book CAN become an experience to be paired with getting outside our house and car and reading in a hammock on a mountaintop. Books travel with you and thus become essential to you in a way that transcends videos and movies. It’s an effort to read a book, to pick it up and flip the pages instead of turning it on and passively laying and vegetating on a couch or chair. Books tell you “Take me on an adventure” and urge you to have a journey on two fronts.

Manufactured goods are nothing new and we grow up with a plethora of options before us, manufactured foods, emotions, and experiences all fall under the same title. Yet when we dig deeper and see what happens when we gorge on the easy way out, we all dissolve hopelessly into decadence.

The outdoors is one path towards real life. But, put simply, we will discover who we are in the process of pursuing things that are natural and true and honest to character building.

That is why I fight for what‘s real.

That is what I believe to be the natural way of life.

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.