This Just In – “Outside” is good for you…

Forest Stream

One of the motivators for us in turning this lot in the city into a homestead was that in our minds – there’s just something not right about living in such proximity to other people. Now, it’s not that I don’t like people. I do. It’s not that I don’t like the modern convenience of being 5 minutes from the store – there is just something about the ideal of country living to me that speaks to my core.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here or not, but my ideal place is on a 10 acre plot, with the house smack dab in the middle of the parcel. No one around you for 5 acres on any side… I like the open green space, and I like it quiet. Here at the Little House on 17th Street – the cacophony of sirens can wear on you, and the constant car traffic at times – can really get on your nerves.

There is something calming and peaceful about life in the country that the city simply can’t offer.

… and now there is scientific proof to back it up. A recently released study by the American Chemical Society has shown that increasing frequency of depression and mental health issues can be tied to increased urbanization, and simply trading your gray backdrop for a green one can make a huge difference in one’s outlook on life.

Imagine that!

That was one of the motivators (aside from the housing market going belly-up) that led us to start this particular homesteading project. It was our attempt at creating something we could be pleased with – that would help to make us happy. Instead of it nagging at us that we couldn’t get to that dream home in the country… and likely never will – we brought the country to us.

There are times however, when even we have to get away. We have to simply get out of the city, get off the paved roads and get into the woods. My favorite places to go are many of Oregon’s rivers and watersheds. I have an intense passion for fishing and hunting, and much of my time in the woods is spent in these pursuits. There is something incredible about getting up at the crack of dawn, walking into the silent woods as the forest begins to awaken around you, the crunch of the leaves under your feet, the swishing of the grasses along the river’s edge… the lacerations from the Himalayan blackberries that are EVERYWHERE, (wait.. that wasn’t so pastoral..) but there is something soothing about getting out and tossing in that first cast into a perfect seam, the anticipation and the adrenaline surge from the takedown.

It recharges you.

I have recently lost some of that charge and my batteries have felt pretty depleted in that department lately. The last time I fished was last January. Yup, 1 full year ago… Life has been so chaotic, and nuts – and it’s not that I haven’t had the time – I simply haven’t made the time, and there’s something seriously wrong with that.

In that vein, I had the chance tonight to attend the ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) meeting where they unveiled to the public their Coastal Multi-Species Plan. Essentially a plan that will shape the fisheries management policies on the coastal rivers of Oregon for the next decade and a half – naturally – I wanted to be sure to be there in order to hear what is being planned, as well as air my concerns with the aspects of the plan that I feel are not beneficial. There was a group of us there, folks that I know well who had concerns, and I feel the meeting was productive overall, but as I returned home this evening replaying parts of the meeting in my head – I realized there were a lot of folks in there fighting for the resource – working hard to ensure that these fish will be around for many generations – yet here I am – and I haven’t even taken an opportunity in over a year to get out and enjoy the resource while it was here.

One of my favorite quotes, by a writer named Edward Abbey popped into my head.

Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive them.”

I’ve somewhat lost sight of this bit of wisdom in the past year… the past year was capped by work, home, more work at home, wasting time, more work… I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a mental health break.  I think it’s time to start focusing on getting my hind end back into the woods, getting down to the river, and creating some memories with the family out in the beautiful wilds of Oregon… perhaps this weekend is a good time to start.

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The Important Things in Life

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It is interesting to me how the loss of someone close to you causes a person to become deeply reflective of their own life… to an extent, it causes a person to go back over their lives and their priorities with a fine toothed comb.

A friend of our family just lost her battle with cancer this morning, and as I read the news, tears stinging my eyes… I couldn’t help but think of those who are left behind and the adjustments they will need to make.

I’ve made them myself in the not so distant past. My own father passed in December of 2008, and I remember the late night phone call one evening when I was having trouble with my car in order to get help to diagnose the problem and letting it ring 2 or 3 times before I realized, ‘Wait. Dad’s Gone.’, the feeling of emptiness in the garage back home, the things left unsaid, or worse yet – the things that WERE said that can’t be taken back.

Death is the great equalizer, and in these difficult times, we as humans become extremely reflective. We run through things in our heads, we replay our lives, and we relive those memories, both good and bad, and when we come out the other side, we have a new focus, and often renewed priorities.

… because let’s be honest – when you examine your life and the stark reality that you are still alive while someone else dear to you is not –  each passing minute becomes suddenly more precious – every day becomes a gift.

So doesn’t it beg the question of how we spend that time? Or at the very least, is the time that we’re spending enriching our life in some way? Are we “redeeming the time” as it discusses in Ephesians 5?

As I’ve meditated on this today, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that no – I am not. My priorities are all mixed up. I find myself focusing on the unimportant, and neglecting the most important – and I think if you truly take a step back and look at the world around us, perhaps even your own life… I am not alone.

We’re more focused on what’s on television than we are with what went on during our child’s school day, we’re more focused on getting to the next level of Candy Crush Saga than we are on connecting/reconnecting with friends, we quickly heat up a meal so that we can get to the gym, or to the office, or to a meeting, rather than sit down and have a meal with our husband, or our wife and our children… we’re MORE CONNECTED THAN EVER on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, text, phone… yet in a strange twist of irony, we are more disconnected inter-personally than ever before. (Yes… I recognize the irony of me making this statement on a blog… so thbbbpppttt.) Our kids are screaming watch me, watch me, and we have ‘more important‘ things to do.

We only get one turn on the merry go round.

So what is truly important in life? I made a short list today as I worked reflecting and meditating, and here’s mine in order of importance. Yours may be different, but this is mine…

1) Faith
2) Spouse
3) Family
4) Work
5) Friends
6) Recreation
7) Self
8) Everything else.

Facebook – doesn’t even rank, Television – doesn’t even rank, Keeping up with the Kardashians??? How about giving up on the Kardashians… because Kim and Kanye’s baby, or getting to level 50 on Farmville, or what so and so is doing on Facebook doesn’t mean anything anymore when you’re on your death bed praying for a little more time with your loved ones.

Hezekiah was granted additional years after prayer and supplication, and I truly believe my friend Stefanie was too… but the merry go round ultimately stops for us all. Some get a longer ride than others, but it’s not the length of the ride that’s important…

… it’s how you’ve spent your time.

I came across a poem a while back. The author escapes me, but the message is unforgettable. The gist of it was that the date at the beginning of your tombstone isn’t important, nor is the date at the end, it’s the dash that is in between that matters.

How did you live your dash?

It’s easy to sit back and analyze, meditate, and reprioritize – but I was in this same place when my dad died in 2008… making it stick and making it last is tough.

Changing your life, changing habits, changing routines is tough.

I come home from work, I check Facebook. I check my email. I check cnn.com, I check the statesmanjournal.com, I check wordpress.com, I check wimp.com, I check wins.failblog.org, failbooking.org, giantitp.com, I read about things that interest me, woodcarving, fishing, gardening, guns, news… and before I know it, hours have gone by.

Everything I’ve just listed goes in the ‘not important category‘. It’s really not important… At. All. Helping Shannon around the house – important. Getting projects completed? Important. Playing a game with my kids – CRUCIAL.

Mankind has let ourselves become so distracted in life – willingly let these corporations, apps, shows, movies, celebrities into our lives… and the only people who can put a stop to them is us. This is part of why we started this homestead process – it was a direct challenge to the flow of the world around us – rather than go downstream with the rest of the world, we decided to head upstream. Do something different – go against the flow, but fighting against the current allows us to be swept downstream little bit little with the flow.

Time for a course correct.

Here’s what I’m going to do, and I’m going to challenge you to join me in the month of August. Give it 30 days.

  1. Make a list of your life priorities in order of importance.
  2. At the start of each day – put your number one priority first.
  3. Do not go on to the second thing until SOMETHING has been done on the first.
  4. Then move on to the second, and the third, IN ORDER.

So – for example: using my list – taking care of things that Shannon needs building our relationship, cannot be done until I have checked off taking care of my relationship with God. Prayer, or study or SOMETHING to connect with Him needs to be done before I move on to my spouse. Then comes Shannon – I don’t put work before her, She comes next – so maybe it’s helping with the dishes, or just taking time to sit and talk, or finishing a project that she needs done. Then the kids – work doesn’t come before them either. Kids first. It doesn’t have to take 3 hours, just something to let them know how much I love them. Then work, then friends, then self – then all the other distractions (if there’s still time in the day)

I think this will help prioritize, and invigorate ones life and relationships, because when it all comes down to it, life is like every Arnold Schwartzenegger movie – it’s all about relationships.

I don’t know about you – but when someone asks me how I lived my dash, I want to be able to reply with a smile on my face…

“I lived it well man… lived. it. well.”