Into The Wild: Nature As A Healer

There is no better smell than pine trees. They have a distinct scent that is both calming and exciting. The scent of pines is a soothing one, but it also smacks of a wilder time, a wilder place. The forest was around long before we were, and it is full of creatures who are more than a match for us. Some are beautiful, some are dangerous, many are both. But I will always be grateful for the opportunity to go into the wild.

We are truly blessed to live where we do. Many people go their whole lives without spending a day on the river. Every day, there are fewer people who know what it’s like to enjoy a day outside, enjoy a night outside; to kill and butcher their own food. Every day, more people are spending more time staring at a screen than looking at the stars. People are focused on saving the forest without having any idea what it’s like to stand among the trees.

Being outside has always been restorative for me. There are few things in this world as healing to my soul as a day on the river or a night in the woods. Being in touch with nature allows me to clear my head. Being stripped of all but the most necessary things makes me grateful for the things I have. And it reminds me of what’s truly important in life. Things can be replaced, people and experiences cannot. This is why I never worry about losing lures, especially if they catch me fish first. Lures are simply hunks of metal or plastic, and even the most expensive Shadrap is only as valuable as the memories it creates.

Many college students have no trouble staying up until four in the morning after a night out at the bars; very few have no trouble getting up at four in the morning to go hunt or fish. Our generation is among the most entitled to ever exist. We have become a generation of meat eaters whose only experience with farm-to-table is the sticker on pre-packaged chicken. We expect things to be handed to us without having to work for them, not because we have earned it, but because we “deserve” it. How many of us would last if we had to live the way our forefathers did? If we had to provide for ourselves and solve problems without the aid of the internet?

The other day I was fishing in a very crowded section of the Missouri River. Two guys were fishing next to me and one of them hooked into a big spawning rainbow, all bowbacked and full of dark color. He brought it to net and his friend came over. Instead of admiring the fish or complimenting his friend, the fisherman immediately pulled out his phone and started giving instructions to his buddy about the proper filter, focus, angle and zoom to use. Now I’m all for taking a picture of a big fishing as much as the next guy, but fish, not the picture should take precedence. Updating your Instagram is not nearly as important as enriching your soul.

Technology has done a great deal for people, but sometimes I find myself longing for the days when we didn’t all have mini cameras, computers, headphones, video and weather apps in our pockets. I find myself longing for days that I never really knew; the days my father and my uncle talk about where super dupers were the fanciest thing they used to catch fish and they had to walk 10 miles to school every day in the snow uphill both ways. I miss the days when fly rods went in the back of pickups instead of a fancy hood rack. We live in a generation of entitlement and overstimulation. Technology, while helpful, is not always soulful.

But the woods are. No Glade candle can truly capture the scent of actual pines. And no picture of a 28-inch trout, no matter how fancy the filter is, can capture what it’s like to feel that fish on the end of your line. And no Instagram photo will ever truly convey what it’s like to watch an actual sunrise. Our generation is the most connected — and the most out of touch — that has ever existed. We need to remember the natural beauty of where we are. We need to remember to be grateful for the things we have. We need to unplug to truly connect. Put down the phone and pick up a fishing rod. Turn away from the screen and look up at the stars. Focus not on your touch screen, but on getting in touch with the world. As always, here’s wishing you tight lines and no homework. Thanks for reading.