Pop Heinkle’s Hands And Reprobus’ Work Ethic

We’ve all heard that whole bit about people looking like their dogs right? You see a man with a sagged, lined face walking his bulldog and it just seems right. We see bits of ourselves reflected in our pets, and that’s why we like having them around.

Sometimes it isn’t just a physical resemblance. It’s certain traits that let us get along so well with these balls of fur and joy. We can learn a lot from the dogs we have around us. A lot of the time they’re a better indicator of ourselves than any psychoanalysis would be.

My dog is absolutely this for me. My family jokes constantly that Reprobus is my “id”. All my energy and impulsiveness bottled and corked into 45 pounds of joy and desire for work. He needs a job to be doing, or he gets himself into trouble. Curiosity and impishness that can only be countered by wearing himself out entirely, and a distrust of new people. I can certainly relate to that, especially the other side of that distrust, which is an almost asinine devotion to people once his border collie brain decides they’re part of the “flock”.

We all need something to devote ourselves to. For some, it’s social interaction or a creative outlet. It’s the thing you do that all other things in life work towards. The thing that you can put everything you are into. For Rep and I, that thing is work itself. Something that physically wears us out to the point of sitting still for longer than ten minutes.

It’s a hard thing to channel for some of us who take part in an outdoor heavy lifestyle. Especially when the workweek takes up most of our time, and the work we do isn’t physically demanding. I worked in an office all through college, and I’d come home with my mind racing and my bones aching for some kind of activity. It got me in trouble a lot. I’d do stupid things out of sheer boredom, and annoy the hell out of anyone around me with an endless stream of consciousness out of my mouth.

Now that I’m back in Baltimore, I’m working for my uncle towing cars. It’s demanding physically and leaves me feeling truly tired after a twelve hour shift. The other day I glanced down at my hands and realized that they were starting to look like my great grandfather’s paws. He worked in a brickyard his whole life and some of my first memories of him involve his hands. Even in his nineties he still had hands like a bear. Albeit a bear covered in grease and clay, or dirt if he’d been working in their garden. We don’t always intend to end up like our family, but sometimes it sneaks up on us, in ways we don’t expect. I have never considered myself to be a hard worker, if anything I’m prone to bouts of laziness. However, having a job to do that allows me to work with my hands all day and come home sweaty and filthy has brought out the work ethic I respected so much about my great grandfather. It’s rewarding in and of itself, rather than being rewarding because of the money or accolades received. 

So, how does this apply to you, the reader?

 I can’t rightly say. All I know is that if you have the opportunity to work with your hands in some way do it. Find small tasks that require some form of tactical dexterity and apply yourself to them. If you’re mind is racing and you can’t slow it down, physical work draws you out of yourself and into the subject of your efforts. It doesn’t have to be something truly manual. Got an artistic bend? Try some form of sculpture or wood working. If I’m still wired after a day of work lately, I carve and whittle. It’s even better if you can make something you or someone else will have a daily use for. 

For example, 

After my first week of working at Henry’s I found myself restless on the weekend. Even hiking couldn’t wear me out enough to replace the long days of the workweek. So I asked around at work and found a few little projects. Currently I’m working on a walking cane for a coworkers mother.

 

It adds an extra touch of meaning to a project when it’s for someone else. You’ll find yourself more focused on getting it right, and that’s drive to improve your ability as you go, rather than doing good enough for yourself. 

So, get the chaos of your mind out on occasion. Work with something tangible, sweat a little and get a few calluses on your hands. At the very least you’ll end up with a better nights sleep, at best you’ll find the work ethic of physical labor transferred into your daily life. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, carved or otherwise. 

 

 

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Patience and Cicadas 

We’re all bad at it.

As I settle into the routine that I’ll have for the next half a year or so it’s hard not to dwell on the stretch of time in front of me before I finish up more of the training that will let me work in the industry that’s my calling. That’s not a bad thing.

I am intrinsically poor at having to wait for things. People, the sun to come up, etc. It’s why I don’t like going on road trips with other people, or traveling with them in general. When I decide I want to go, I go. So when there isn’t something to wait on, other than time itself to pass I try to take it as an embuggerence,put my head down and keep busy. Which is a shame, because there’s so much else I could be doing.

My summer and fall of just waiting in Baltimore happen to coincide with the hatch of the seventeen year Cicadas here in Maryland. These insect have always fascinated me. The year after I moved to St. Louis I got to experience the seven year swarm and it confounded my childish mind. Why did these things wait so long to emerge, only to die within a few weeks? Other insects didn’t do this, at least not to my young eyes. They came back every year when it was their time then faded away as the weather started to chill the air. This was the order I had seen, and it meshed with my high energy levels and penchant for always moving.

As with everything I didn’t understand as a child, my mother gave me leaflets and books to read about them. I became enthralled with the cicada lifecycle. It was fascinating, and in my view at the time obscene. Taking all that time to grow and develop, to me seemed like wast of the highest order.

It isn’t though. It’s a great strategy for a species and allows them to fill niches that are relatively safe. For the time they’re developing the Cicadas live underground, away from the elements and most predators. They slowly store up energy (and seventeen years is definitely slow) until some internal stimuli tells them “go”. Then they emerge in such numbers that no predator, no matter how large the population could possibly hope to devour them before the majority can breed and die. It even seems to my (admittedly under informed) eye that they’ve attempted to leave the predator/prey arms race of evolution entirely by waiting so long. Anything that adapted to prey on them specifically would have to already be on that seventeen year cycle, or something similar.

However, in all my research, I was missing a metaphor in the slow growth of these creatures. We all have periods in our lives of forced sedation. We’re working towards something different maybe, or waiting for an opportunity to arise that interests us. So it’s easy to waste the time that isn’t devoted to those goals. We go out, or something similar. Classic time wasting activities. I’m incredibly guilty of this, and maybe some of you are as well. We fall into easy patterns in order to make the time go faster.

That isn’t what our little Cicadoidea friends are doing. They’re going through molts as they feed on sap underground, slowly but surely getting closer to the stage of nymphhood that will allow them to crawl out of the ground, up a tree and emerge, winged and ready to start supplying the woods with their signature song.

Molting is something we as humans do over and over in our lives. Our lifespans are filled with what can feel like false starts, or failed attempts. It’s taken me years, and a few false starts of my own to realize the importance of those steps in my life. If I hadn’t spent four years in college, working in the political field, I’d have spent the rest of my life wondering if I’d missed a chance to do something good. Instead, I get to know for certain I wasn’t equipped for that sort of work, and luckily the next thing I fell into happened to be something that I’m certain will allow me to supply my “signature song” to the world.

Enjoy each little phase of your life, is what I’m getting at here. Even if it feels like you’re slogging through to get to the next one. If you’re lucky enough to know what that next phase is, you’re already off to a start. The trick is to capture that time in between and use it to improve yourself in preparation. Practice and constantly being on the lookout for new skills and information that will help you out. That’s our version of the cicada nymph’s sap. Gorge yourself on it. Let it help you grow until that shell your stuck in sluffs off of its own accord.

Patience is hard, and some scrawny woodsman in training waxing poetic about bugs (I have a few biologist friends who are going to be up in arms about “Cicadas aren’t true bugs”. If they mention it, I hope a cicada flies into their hair) isn’t going to make you better at it. The drive you foster in yourself by seeing your life in necessary stages might. Make them all count. I’m certainly going to try.

If you want to know more about Cicadas just ask (I get weird thrills from doing research) or check out this site. I don’t know who runs it but they goddamn love these little critters.

Now get off your computer, go sit outside till it’s dark and listen to these beautiful little alien eyed critters while you can

“Pass It Around”

There’s a lot of good in this world. It can be easy to get caught up in all the daily minutia that seems determined to keep us from remembering that. It’s all we see on a day to day basis sometimes. That’s a good thing in itself sometimes. We’re part of an increasingly interconnected world and society, and we should pay our dues for the ease it affords us by helping out were we can.

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That’s another article though. This one is about the simple joy that comes from showing others that “good” we talked about. There’s something toxic in a lot of us modern western folk. Something that finds good things and wants to hoard them away for ourselves. I  don’t claim to know why we’re like that, or that it doesn’t exist in other cultures, but it’s incredibly prominent here.

And it’s a shame really, because the joy we find in things builds on it self exponentially when we pass it along. It’s a matter of seeing outside yourself for a moment. Your sense of personal happiness, or contentment may not grow in a tangible way when you share the things you love with people, but if you take a step back and see what it brings to those you’ve shared with the overall happiness is doubled.

This isn’t just a happy little think piece. I did begin it with a certain subject in mind. Teachers. We all know that old tired adage of “those that can’t do teach”, and we all know it’s probably one of the worst bits of “folk wisdom” that’s ever been spoken by a human being, correct? Good. As long as we’re on the same page.

I think we should all strive to be teachers in our day to day lives. If you know how to do something and can pass it on, not only are we affirming to ourselves that we have enough of a handle on our chosen subject that we can explain its workings, and show how it’s done concisely and effectively. We’re also giving someone else a chance to be infected with a passion for something . That’s not anything to balk at. People in my generation have more access to information than any of us monkey’s in shoes ever have, and that’s great. However, it’s one thing to read and watch pieces about a subject and another entirely to be doing them with someone who can guide you through it.

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The “Ghost Flower” or “Corpse Plant” One of the many plants I’ve had to research since I got back. 

Since I got back to Maryland a few weeks ago, I’ve been out hiking and swimming every chance I get. I’d been away from the land of pleasant living for so long, I felt I owed it to my home state to reacquaint myself with it. In my head a new outdoor environment is sort of like a dog you’ve never met before. It’s best to take the first bit slowly, get to know one another a bit before you start roughhousing (everyone here wrestles with all the dogs they meet right? No? Just me?). So when my cousin asked if she and her boyfriend could come along on one of my little sojourns I was initially hesitant. However, once we got out on trail I experienced what this article started off talking about. Like a lot of young people in our generation my cousin “like ,totally loves nature”, but it’s a one-dimensional relationship. People in our age group sometimes interact with nature the way they  interact with a movie. This has been true of other generations as well. To me the most accurate example of this is “national lampoon”. The family finally makes it to the grand canyon, and Chevy Chase says something along the lines of “well, there it is. Let’s go”.

That had been my cousin’s experience with the outdoors up to this point. Taking them out and telling them about each bird we saw that I knew, or showing them the basics of how to read the clouds (a skill I’m also still learning) made the experience three dimensional in a way none of us, I think, expected. The minutia of the trail replaced the minutia of everyday life for those few hours.

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I obviously used the outdoors as my example, because that’s what I love, and it’s the field I’m falling into, but the experience can be overlayed onto anything. So, if you’re good at something and you love doing it, I challenge you to take an hour this week and show someone who’s interested how to do it.

And I’ll leave you with the song that got my mind wandering down this little path. “Other Side Of Rainbow” by Gogol Bordello. There’s a particular line that started the thought process

“And if you hear of something good,
Don’t hold it back, pass it around.”

So take good old Eugene’s advice, go pass around whatever you’ve got that’s good.

 

“Videntur In Terra”

My grandparents have this deck umbrella. It sits on their porch outside during the summer, and it’s covered with compass and map designs, as well as the phrase “The unseen land” in a bunch of different languages. The title of this article is one of those, and thanks to my mother forcing me to take latin for as long as I can remember I understood it, and it got me thinking. What a beautiful simplicity of speech that sums up so much of what many of us in this outdoor industry feel every time we go off trail and look for someplace new.

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(Coming out of one of my favorite stretches on the eastern shore. Sure as hell not telling where it is though)

Not all of us have that call, and that’s fine. For some it’s enough to hike the trails and mountains that any have before us. It makes sense. A lot of the most captivating places in this world have hundreds of people through them every week, and in the case of places like Yellowstone or Niagra so much has been built around the majesty they embody that you may not even have to get out of your car. That kind of exploration has its place. Just because countless others have seen it, doesn’t mean it should stop you from experiencing it for yourself.

That’s not what some of us crave though. We long for that “Videntur in terra”. The corners of the map that haven’t been touched yet, we want to come back from the experience with something extra. Not just the ability to say “I’ve been there”, but the knowledge that we’ve found something that not everyone else will understand, and if they have the desire to know it, they’ll have to go out and find it for themselves.

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If I’d been born a few centuries ago, I have no doubt I’d have been one of those who yearned to sail off the corners of the world, and I’m sure some of you who hike, canoe, climb and wander feel the same. There’s a sense of how small the world has gotten now that we can boot up out GPS whenever we get lost in a new city, or don’t know how to get to our next stop. There are ways of getting around this though. The North Maine woods is the freshest in my mind so I’ll use it as an example. In the time spent there we relied on Paul and Tim to show us tricks of navigation, and it could be stressful. If we didn’t see which branch of the river they’d taken we had to rely on ourselves and what we’d learned to choose which to take. It’s daunting when you might end up miles down the wrong route with no way to get in contact with anyone.

The payoff is worth it though. Not only did we feel confident that if we did get lost we could take care of ourselves in the woods, but the payoff of actually ending up in a pristine stretch of “terra” is something I can’t capture in words, but will try anyway. It wasn’t that we’d found something untouched entirely. It was the fact that we’d ended up at something so beautiful that most people had never heard of. Lake Millamagaset was one of these places. It’s not accessible by road. If you want to get there your options are to hike, be flown in by a small aquatic plane, or do as we did and paddle or pole upstream. It’s hard work in most cases. Any time you’re looking for something truly novel in the outdoors, you’re going to have the work cut out for you. All humans I think, feel the urge to experience what’s past the horizon. We don’t live in a world with many chances for that anymore. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We can learn fairly easily about the “strangers across the river” and with that comes

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         (Another advantage to wandering around off trail is the quiet beauty you can find)

Any time you’re looking for something truly novel in the outdoors, you’re going to have the work cut out for you. All humans I think, feel the urge to experience what’s past the horizon. We don’t live in a world with many chances for that anymore. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We can learn fairly easily about the “strangers across the river” and with that comes greater understanding of ourselves as human beings and all the different ways we’ve found to live. We don’t live in constant fear of some unknown entity or force of nature ripping the life we know in half at a moments notice. Sometimes though. Sometimes, and for some people they need that uncertainty. They ache for a chance to go out, and find someplace new. Someplace that we can (eventually? Never? Probably not?) come away from, return to civilization and say “Look at what I’ve found”. I don’t know about all of you, but I spend more time than is likely healthy wishing there were still places on our maps marked “videntur  in terra”, and decorated with monsters. If only so I can head towards those corners, and come back reassuring all concerned that there are indeed NO monsters. Only a beautiful new thing or place to try and understand.