Monday, December 23, 2013

Getting Back to what this Blog is About

I would be lying if I wrote that this blog was for sure gonna be the start of a daily routine of writing.  I
have endeavored to do that so many times that it would be ridiculous to make that crazy assertion.  But this might be that start that I hope it is - a return to what this blog was supposed to be about.

I don’t mind just reposting all the stuff that comes across my desktop from MDC, the State Parks, and the Forest Service that pertains to Missouri.  In fact, when I look at my blog stats, my biggest days are when I post stuff about deer hunting from MDC or the weekly fishing report during the fishing season.

But, very often I don’t even read the whole article I am reposting, and it sure doesn’t connect me to the things I love to do - hunting, fishing, and camping in this beautiful state.  My best writing comes from the experiences I have had, and conversely, my writing sometimes reminds me I need to get out or gives me an idea of an area I’d like to visit.

Heck, I completely missed deer season this year.  I had to have surgery and as a school teacher it works out pretty nice to schedule these things around our relatively long breaks - unless that break coincides with deer season!

My two sons are in town and we have a couple of things planned.  My older son likes to hunt - more small and upland game, as the whole dynamic of sitting in a tree stand in sub-freezing temperatures is not at the top of his most fun things to do.  My younger son is kind of the same way, but it’s not so much the cold that bothers him, but the whole killing a deer thing is not something that he gets thrilled about.  He has killed deer, and I imagine he will in the future - it’s just not a passion for him.  He is passionate about fly fishing.

So we will get a little of both those activities in while they are here.  For the fishing, we likely will visit the Current River and Montauk State Park. During the Winter, we like to spend some of our time in the Park and some of our time down around Tan Vat, Baptist Camp, and on down to Parker Hollow. During the regular trout season, we pretty well spend all our time outside the Park, unless we have a guest with us who wants some really easy fishing and to fill a cooler.

The small game hunting is a simpler proposition.  We live in an area where we are surrounded by good options for that and it does not require a whole lot of planning.  Basically, it is just a matter of grabbing a pocketful of shells for the shotguns we will bring, throwing on some warm clothes, and heading out for some really cool time together.

It’s kind of funny that when we hunt, even though both my boys have acquired essentially all the knowledge that I have (that word “essentially” is thrown in because I cannot quite leave out some qualifier), I still cannot quite manage to get either of them to take the leadership role.  I really do want them to, as I think it’s good for learning to navigate the woods and for general self-confidence.  Maybe this year they will.  I am not sure whether or not there is some deeper psychological dynamic going on there or not.

I have noticed that both boys have used the outdoors as an outlet for decompressing from their somewhat fast-paced lives when they are away from home.  My oldest son got married this year, and is in his first year as a civil engineer while also completing a Master’s Degree.  Every month or perhaps more often he tells me about a place that he has gotten out to with some combination of himself, his wife, and/or his goofy dog.  Sometimes these excursions are just hikes.  Sometimes he packs up stuff for a cookout.  Sometimes he does a little bit of hunting.

My youngest is a Junior at Mizzou in their Forestry program (he switched this year from Journalism and could not be happier).  He has discovered all of the trails, streams, ponds and lakes, and conservation areas within walking or biking distance of campus.  For him, the outdoors is and always has been a major stress-reliever.

My wife and I incorporate the outdoors and exercise into our daily existence.  Even when the days get short and we have to get out in the dark, we are blessed to reside in an area where if we walk on the roads, there is little traffic.  Since we are surrounded by woods, we often trek out into the surrounding forest, where after 15 minutes or less, we can be in an area where there is little sign of civilization.  I
have noticed that for the first 10 or 15 minutes of our jaunts, her mind is abuzz with the events of the day.  Afterwards, she typically becomes absorbed in her surroundings and she gradually transitions into a state of relaxation over the final 30 to 45 minutes of our time out.

I do not know how it can be that people completely avoid the outdoors.  I know there are people who go to work every day, come home, and go through each and every day including the weekends without getting outdoors.  Of course we have an advantage in being teachers, that we get to school early and are both typically home by 5 PM.  I have to believe that even were it not for that, we would find a way where most days, but certainly on weekends we would still find our times of solitude outdoors.

For me, it’s not so much about the exercise.  That is a nice benefit of enjoying the outdoors.  It is in fact difficult to do much in the outdoors without some level of exercise.  But for me, it is more about the different perspective that the outdoors provides me. In a way, it is a complex thought experiment.  On those days where for some reason we can’t or just don’t get out, I feel tangibly different about a lot of things.

On those unfortunate days, I find myself getting more riled about politics, job-related matters, relationship issues, and even financial matters.  It might be as simple as walking through a forest where many trees are over 100 years old and have survived storms, drought, and even by perhaps luck been missed by tornadoes.  Those old trees have been presiding over a world full of fools worrying about things that are mostly inconsequential.

Those trees can talk to us if we are there and we listen.  I am not crazy.  I have never heard the spoken word from an oak or cedar tree. Somehow, there is a form of two way communication that occurs in nature that lifts us up and evens us out.  I am certain that is true for everyone. Writing about those experiences is what this blog was supposed to be, and what I hope to make it once again.  No promises.