Gate Keepers of the Nature Deficit Culture

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Is Facebook, twitter, a computer, or a cell phone the barrier between you and the outside world?  Are sophisticated technological contraptions your gatekeepers? You know, the obstacles that stand guard at the portals to reality?

Mind numbing fixations by advanced technology leads to nature deficit disorder. But nature is the foundation to our home in the universe.  If we don’t take care of it, we will lose it.

Computer screen oriented technologies is not the same as natural tool oriented technologies. One is a simulation that takes place only in the mind, the other is a real world experience that engages the mind with physical activity. Knowing without doing, only leads to stagnation of human health and degradation of the soul.

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What is your gatekeeper?  Most folks forget or do not  realize they even have one. Often they are ghost-like and merely a step beyond perceptible.  But, bringing them to your awareness is the first step in getting control,  or at least managing them, so that all your time is not absorbed into unreal worlds of data streams.

 

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Doing and being is real world living. This is quite different from fantasy, where illusions and delusions fill our mind and take us to an unreal world. Often this is where our machines take us. We begin to live our world through screens and devises where the dance becomes one between the human mind and data of the machine. It is a trap we get caught in where we live in a world of imagination, and forget about stepping out of the distraction to walk on the real ground. Only on terra firma can we feel the earth beneath our feet and kick up dust.

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Living a personal dream is dancing the dance.  It is a laying-down of our own tracks upon the soil. Action is the catalyst to change one event into another, beyond which they become experiences that give meaning to our lives.  Participating in the here and now to engage raw nature builds personal history. History is where our memories go to make sense of the future, or should, if we wish to employ the gift of wisdom to lead the way. Otherwise the bad things we experience and wish to avoid will inevitably get repeated again.

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(How you jump-start your kid matters)

Real world activities lead to compassion, while living only in the mind on computer world experiences leads to separation from nature.  Our human nature is nurtured by real world nature.  To care for something, one must have compassion.  True feelings come from the act of feeling. Emotion and feeling come from real world touching, not thinking about them.  The image staring back at you in the mirror is not you. When you touch that finger in the mirror, you feel only your own finger, not that of the image of it.  All life experiences are the same.

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Passion and compassion ride either side of the dragon’s back.  One stimulates the self while  the other creates empathy for others. Bottomline: transform the data stream into a river stream and ride the ride.

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Stick your feet into the river.

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Or walk on water.

How River Guiding is Like Farming and Ranching

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If you like certainty in your life, then you won’t like guiding, farming, or ranching.  There are too many variable in all these ways of life to satisfy those who like or need black and white solutions to the trials and errors of any life style.  If you like the stability of knowing what will happen between 8am and 5pm of the common work week, then following a job that is more like a 24/7 proposition won’t be for you.

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All three lifestyles, guiding, farming, and ranching are enmeshed into the framework of nature and all the tribulations of adapting to constantly changing situations and challenges.   But that is also the beauty of not knowing before-hand what each day will bring, as the mystery is always just that. Something unknown waiting to happen, and not knowing for certain can be exciting and never dull.

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Climate, what is expected over the long haul,  and weather, which is what happens daily,  are the two things that are a baseline to lifestyles that are  foundationally tied to mother nature.  Each day counts. Going out in the middle of the night during  a snow storm to tend to a cow having a calf,  watching a hail storm destroy a crop of cherries, or rowing a boat in the middle of a down-pour to get down river are all a part of the bargain in these livelihoods.  Of course, it also includes cute little newborns in the spring sun, the sweet fragrance of a blossoming orchard, or the view of bighorn sheep drinking by the river’s edge as you float down stream.

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Sometimes, droughts control crops, be it animal or plant, and even the amount of water that rolls down the canyon, or not, that determines if a river can be navigated.  Whims of the weather shape behavior on our planet, for  all biological entities. Realities face isn’t always one we wish to kiss or a medicine we wish to taste. But, there isn’t a coin made that has only one side, so flipping it we must and live by the consequences that result.  Chance is always uncertain, while change is always a constant.

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The good, bad, and ugly all play out in  the grand uncertainty of it all.  Of course, the balance weights heavily in the positive aspects of the whole, otherwise, why would anyone wish to live this way? And why else would people who do these things wish to share it with others?  Seeing the smiles and content in the heats of others is reward enough, not counting the immense joy it brings to oneself.  Ears, eyes, and voice evolved for a reason. It wasn’t to be deaf, blind, or silent. All these things came about to share and develop community. Just like it takes all organs to make the body function properly, it takes a collective community to make a social system work well.

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Though I am a river guide, I have also worked in both other professions at some capacity during my years, so can appreciate the commonality between them all.  Though river guiding can be a lot of work, compared to the other two, I think I will stick to river guiding. Given the choice between shoveling cow and horse manure or viewing natural beauty of a river flowing through white-washed rocks from birds of prey, white always wins over brown in my world.

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Gary Lane
www.doryfun.com

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Ice Is Nice – Dendritic Fractals Anyone?

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There is no escape. Nature is everywhere. Even on a cold morning, its form can take shape on the window of your car. This time of year, which is also the beginning of a brand new one, (2014) nature expresses itself in the language of cold. Ice more specifically.  Interestingly the architecture of nature’s design, so eloquently translated as the real art for which  it is, is a marvelous sight to behold. How curious it is  that a sense of order can been seen in nature’s randomness. That is, each particular shape is different individually, but design wise, similar collectively. Self-replicating, fundamentally.

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When ice forms on panes of glass, it is sometimes refered to as window frost, fern frost, or ice flowers.  Some actually remind me of the symmetry seen of a large watershed when looked at from far above, like from an astronauts view point.  All the rivers branch like limbs on a tree and similar to patterns seen in the intricacy of a feather. This dendritic pattern is a central theme of nature in many formative processes, and is sometimes referred to as a fractal.  Such reoccurring  patterns, seen from near or far, are a visible form of math, in terms of how shape and scale materialize.  From bird feathers, geologic landscape formations, to ice crystals, nature has an orderly signature. Or at least, a very distinctive one, and easily recognized immediately for the hand that makes it.

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There are many types of snow and ice, all of which have certain characteristics common during the formation process. Snow crystals take the shape of a 6-sided dimension, similar to lava that also solidifies into columnar basalt matrix with the same number of  sides.  Yet, ice crystals take shape into a more dendritic fractal form.  Dendritic simply means a multi-branching tree like form, while fractal refers to a mathematical pattern that is common to much of the structure throughout nature. But why the different number of sides or patterns that give rise to each creation, and what mechanism causes them?  Hard to answer with variables stacked on top of variables that can affect the causation of such magnificent architecture.

Despite whatever explanation might describe why, the essence is Nature’s signature seems to indicate math as the main language for communicating the spirit of anything and everything that moves through nothing and all things.  While all this descriptive  ice nomenclature that provides us humans the words to communicate beauty in nature is fascinating, its formulation is still always a number’s game. But beyond that, a more pragmatic question –  why is ice slippery? I’m going to let that one slide by for now and go ice skating. Oars not needed.

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What is the Nature of Nature?

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What is natural? What is real?  Are things that are man-made natural?  It seems to me that the fact that anything exists at all, is in itself evidence for belonging to the natural world. Human nature comes as a result of humans acting out in relation to all of nature, or simply put, our dance with the environment.  So whatever man makes becomes intertwined with the natural world and becomes either good or bad.  Our choices determine cost or benefit, or that which will either enhance life, or undermine it.

Similar to the question of what is natural or not, are dreams real?  Or are they just another reality that influence our behavior in the physical world.  Our dreams, be them unconscious ones that come about during sleep, or those we conjure up as we create ideas about our future, still help bring about their degree of reality in the physical world. We take steps based on our dreams to help make them come true in some kind of form or another.

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Philosophically, naturalism and supernaturalism has always been a big question to mankind and a huge influence on how humans act and re-act while they are alive on planet earth. Supernaturalism gives rise to ghosts, gods, religions, and purpose for which man has always tried to answer why he is here. Humans need explanations for everything to help satisfy a curiosity about why things are as they are. Wanting to know, is the carrot that keeps our wheels turning and motors running.

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Supernaturalism comes about when we have no evidence for something, but still feel the need to explain their reason for being.  So we make things up to give them purpose, otherwise we would just be, rather than being.  Nouns are what we are, but verbs are what we do. So having purpose helps us in the doing, and going, as we wade through time as a living entity.

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We give spirit to everything, as a way to help us define how or why things are as they are. Rather it be the spirit of adventure, or the spirit of an animal, or a person, all things in nature have spirit as we allow them to be. Man is not satisfied to just be, as we question what it is that is behind our brain making it work. A soul? Our inner self? The dimension that we cannot adequately understand or explain, is about spirit.

All things in nature have spirit, because we allow it to be so.  Even when an animal dies,  it’s spirit is like a scent that can be followed. A vapor like essence that is made visible just by thinking about it. Spirit trails, star trails, and story tales, are clues we human kind like to follow.  They lead our way in the search for truth.

That there is some male throne figure lording over the universe, is highly unlikely, though some sort of power may flow through everything, never to be fully understood in human thought, but perhaps always a “Great Mystery” during the lifetime of each person.  In passing to whatever the next dimension is, perhaps the mystery will be solved, perhaps not. But at least, mystery and curiosity help shape our perceptions of why and how everything is, for humans are never satisfied that everything just is.

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The nature of nature is a circular puzzle with spherical pieces that may perpetuate unsolvable solutions into the far beyond where infinity can never be fully comprehended.

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Why is Solitude Important?

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We enter and exit the world alone. It is all the time in-between, while we experience it, that affects how much joy we have from the perception of  our place in the everyday world.   Alone and aloneness are not the same thing. If we become attached too much to others or things to make us feel happy (psychologists call this “object referral,”) then without those stimulants we will feel distressed, depressed, and/or unhappy.

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An important  human goal is to become content when you spend time with only yourself.   Another rule of nature also applies when in pursuit of this basic goal:  use it or lose it.  If you wish to be happy more than sad or lonely, practice being content with the only one you are really with 24/7 as that person will always be your shadow.  So not to worry. It Is ok to talk to yourself.  After all, we do it all the time anyway, so it is more important to evaluate what we say to ourselves, than trying to hide our self-talk from others.

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So what do we need for purity of thought to hear only ourselves and not be bombarded by other voices and sounds that dilute our thinking? Solitude, is the simple answer. It is the fundamental place where we can exercise our ability in coping with ourselves.   Anywhere you can go to be totally alone, without the distractions of other people, is getting harder to find these days. Thus, it is even more important to find  where only your voice can be heard, and your mind free of chatter and clutter of other humans.

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Solitude allows us to practice enjoying life experience in a more purified form. unsanitized, undiluted, unadulterated, untechnologicalized, and back to basics. Cell phones and any computerized technology when used to extremes turn us into conditioned zombies. We lose ourselves to become the machines that dominate our lives. If you find yourself foaming at the mouth when you can’t find your phone, or the internet it down, or being digitally dis-connected to someone or some thing has been shut down, then you are most likely addicted to technology.

Recent studies show that a big problem with always being hooked up to our high-tech gadgets is that our attention is divided between the world of the people we are with and this other reality – the place of digital connections that only simulate being plugged in to others.  As we walk the streets with our head down, absorbed by tiny screens and buttons, the human next to us is not on our radar, despite being only inches away.  Why do we favor such connections, or dis-connections?  Could it be akin to comparing life in the city where people can hide in the crowd, while people in small towns know everyone else’s business and can’t escape the gossipy grapevine?  Privacy is a valuable thing.

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In our digital world, everyone, town or city, can hide from real world interactions. We can be free to say things we wouldn’t say normally face to face. The conversation is changed when we use technology to communicate.  People won’t invest much in a conversation when knowing that at any moment the person you are talking with will be interrupted by someone else trying to connect with you by the intrusion of that cell phone ringer.

Thus, our communications with people become more surface, and less depth where more of the meaning of what our human being-ness resides.  And if we continue to ignore our own inner depths, loneliness will creep into dominating our life and therefore impact negatively our real happiness.

What is the answer to this dilemma? How about a place to find some solitude for a remedy to being disconnected. Connecting back to self, will help you appreciate the world and be content being alone, for in reality you are never really all alone. In nature, many things will talk to you if you take the time to tune in and listen. The burbling, gurgling streams, the chirp and chatter of  otter, eagle and chipmunk, just to name a few. Solitude in nature is where nature speaks loudest. Being solo in the wilds allows a person to hear what was intended for humans to contemplate without distraction. Birth and death are natural, but in-between we get bombarded with many distractions to keep us from appreciating the value of nature and why we are here. What is more important, the illusion of being connected to everything by our contraptions, or the reality of being truly connected by how nature connects us without such high technology?

No telephones, just a call from the wilderness. Will you answer it?

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Or make your own call, and contact the Wapiti Clan at 208:628-3523 and we will deliver you unto solitude.

The Beauty of a Circle

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Jack’s send off ceremony was held on Oct 13, 2013 on the Salmon River, ten miles upriver, at the giant eddy at Spring Bar Launch and Campsite.  This was and continues to be an ancient Nez Perce place of importance, but now more of a bi-cultural mixing grounds where all those who truly love this place often gather.

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After ending our sacred boat circles at the Spring Bar Eddy on the Salmon River, in tribute to our passing river friend Jack Kappas, the power of circular motion continued on.  I learned later that while a few people shared more stories around a shore side campfire after our more official ceremony, other friends were fishing below the sacred eddy as their chosen way of extending memories. They hooped and hollered when they caught 5 fish, as they were listening softly to ipod music, Jack would have liked, and felt his help urging steelhead to bite their lines, was with them.

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In addition, when Charlie and Lesile headed homeward, they spotted a bald eagle sitting on the rocks at Hippie Beach, which then flew upriver towards Spring Bar. They too felt like it was Jack heading back upriver again, keeping an eagle eye on the river he loved and friends who loved him. Perhaps that eagle’s flight was part of the help for those fishermen upriver and their prized steelhead.

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The day after our memorial three of us (Kristin, Barb, and me)  that were also close friends with Jack, gave his  “Uncle Ernie”, a  tour of the canyon and showed him a few of Jack’s favorite places.  He felt bad that he had never visited our area to take advantage of Jack’s many invites to get him on the river. But, we assured him he was now here and fulfilling that need, all the same, though in different form, Jack would be happy.

Before we left the canyon we had one more final tribute to pay, as the two girls forgot to get Vic’s (Jack’s favorite chocolate lab ) hair and a few fragmented bones that Jack had saved after his dog  drowned in the Salmon River, and I forgot my drum for our original ceremony, so we gathered at the side of the sacred eddy to complete or intended circle of both in a special riverside ceremony.

After entering Vic to the river, then some drumming with three last solitary beats, one each for the 3 ceremonial  boat circles, as Nez Perce consider that number sacred, ending with one moment of silence. Astonishingly, but not surprisingly,  a fish jumped near where Vic had been entered to re-join Jack.  It reminded me of a favorite  quote: “Silence is the voice of the Great Mystery” and how mystery permeates everything in nature.

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A couple of days later I took Charlie fishing upriver, and we had a wonderful day on the water. We shared many stories, about Jack, other river friends, and a gamut of subjects. Kirk was also fishing below us, and I had to tell Charlie about some “Wapiti Moments” that Kirk and I had on the Grande Ronde years ago, along with the original 5 (including Jack) of us who attended the ground-zero salmon and dam breaching hearings in Lewiston years ago.

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The day was long and we did not see Kirk again until end of the day when we both arrived at the ramp about the same time. the three of us shared more stories about Jack, those crazy “wapiti moments” (when things go south, and ingenuity kicks in for survival) and other pertinent things that tie river people together, especially this special  place in the canyon.  We all have  our own life circles and stories, and as we ended our fishing day united at the ramp from our separate loops, did we yet come full circle again as the sun slowly set into the far beyond.  We all had smiles on our faces, just as the ancients smiled down on us. Knowing all the while, with each new day, all  those smiles will soon be returning.

Great beauty is truly found in the circle.

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Erosion is the way of nature.

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Roll on river, roll on.

Tribute to Jack Kappas (1946-2013) – Jack’s Last Run

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Unlike a straight line, defined as the shortest distance between two points, a circle continues on forever. Like some folks description of God, no beginning, no end, just always was, always is.

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Many things in nature are round and cyclic. The shape of our planet, all celestial satellites, billions of suns and zillions of galaxies, all spin forever re-looping back upon their trajectories, over and over like a natural perpetual motion machine.

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Such is the way of life and death on our home in a restless universe, as we whirl about the immensity of space. When those of the living lose a loved one, through all the terrible grief of the untimely moment, comfort can also be had in the realization that nothing really is ever lost.  Chief Seattle once said, “There is no death, just a change of worlds.”

So, though none of us know for sure what the Great Mystery will tell us, if anything, when we pass on to be recycled cosmically, the spirit trail we leave behind will still fill the hearts of the living as memories and stories as evidence of our presence in the giant scheme of things.

All will be touched differently as they think back of their experiences with a loved one that has passed, perhaps remembering their face in the maw of a huge whitewater rapid, or a simple smile in the reflection of a calm pool. All add beauty to the circle of life and death, and will always be in motion just as nature intended it so.

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Our good friend Jack, a cherished member of a beloved dory boat family, used to row the Glenn Canyon when he worked for Martin Litton’s Grand Canyon Dories back in the days of old.  It was a fitting dory boat name, as Jack was a staunch supporter of breaching four dams on the Snake River to help bring back salmon and the true life spirit of the river. He appreciated science and the natural free flowing way as the proper law of nature.

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When he first came to the dory world he came on one of his first apprentice trips with me on the Owyhee River. I remember him in the front of my boat when I entered the wrong side of a bad rock garden and all hell broke loose. Not sure how we made it without a bump, and right-side up, but we did.

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So, now that Jack has moved on to navigate the celestial Milky Way, and even bigger cosmic challenges, perhaps I will come to do some apprenticing behind him, in some future time. Such, is the way of the circle.

As an old boatman’s saying claims: “We never grow too old to boat, we just get a little dingy.” That is, before we all eventually step into our eternal spirit boat. As Jack follows those boatmen and boatwomen before him, and we who will eventually all follow, shall the circle be unbroken.

The one thing about legacies, especially left behind by river people, is a fitting line from Philip  Pullman,  taken from the famous dory tale of the speed run through the Grand by fellow boatmen bonded by common dory world friendships,  in a book by Kevin Fedarkos (now also a part time dory guide) entitled the Emerald Mile:

“Thou shalt not” is soon forgotten,

but: “Once upon a time” lasts forever.”

On one of Jack’s boat pads he wrote the line: “I’ll be right back.”  To that I might add, see you in the stars, Jack, once upon a time.

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