The suction sound made me chuckle as my foot sank into the soft mud. I pulled my foot up and my sandal was gone. The sound and feeling took me back to all the times I spent exploring around a pond near my house growing up. My son Cam started to laugh, and I quickly circled my arms to avoid falling backwards into the wetland. Another week, another near fall.
I dug my foot back into the mud and I found what I thought was my sandal, but I wasn’t entirely sure. The mud was now up above my calves. I talked myself out of wearing my waders just out of pure laziness. During the summer, the best argument for wearing waders is to protect your legs from a variety of irritants such as poison ivy, multiflora rose, stinging nettle, chiggers, or even just the itchy skin that walking through tall grasses can induce. The best argument against wearing waders in the summer is that they are very hot. So, I didn’t want to be hot, and now I was itchy and muddy instead. I was still chuckling and remembering all the lost and muddy shoes and boots throughout my life.
I was lucky to spend a lot of time with my son this weekend. I’ve started to expose him to fly fishing. He likes using a Tenkara rod with dry flies and is improving his ability to cast with accuracy and manage the line. He also likes playing video games and watching Netflix, so I am thankful he likes spending time hiking and fishing as well.
Over the past months, I’ve been lucky and blessed to be able to work from home. I am grateful for my job, but the mundane repetition of sitting at my dining room table and being on conference calls and video calls each and every day is a grind. Many of my coworkers have made the Groundhog Day comparisons. I struggle when I feel like a commodity or a machine. I begin to feel that I’m losing myself, just going through the motions. I’m there, but I’m not really present. I sometimes see that sea of human pods from the Matrix in my mind. Do I contribute to some greater good, or am I just a small piece of some runaway machine?
Two weeks ago, my friend Sam asked me what I needed to feel to avoid feeling like a machine. My brain wrestled with the concept. Sometimes mindless repetition is a helpful process. It can help when I am required to complete data entry or to stay focused on one effort that requires no creativity. The grind is sometimes needed, but over a longer term, I need to feel and see the ability to create. Creativity is a key element for me to stave off the energy-sucking-machine feeling. Lewis Hyde stated, “But neither money nor machines can create. They shuttle tokens of energy, but they do not transform. A civilization based on them puts people out of touch with their creative powers.”
I use this blog to help create and feel attached to my appreciation of art and storytelling, and that helps me. The river also helps to disconnect me from feeling like a machine. There are so many elements of fishing and being on the river that reconnect me to my humanity:
- The sights of the water moving and the stillness of the trees and rocks
- The concentration of watching the flies, indicator, or sighter drift through the currents
- The excitement of seeing the fish rise or flash and eat your fly
- The problem solving of reading the water, getting into an advantageous position, selecting the fly, making the cast, managing the line, and setting the hook
- The solitude or companionship
- The challenge of fighting the fish and bringing it to the net
- The beauty and power of the fish
- The appreciation of the other wildlife that share the space
All these elements are wonderful reminders of our connection to the world around us and how we find joy and mindfulness. But something was missing. Some element of my world still reeled me back to the machine. Pun intended. 🙂
Author Steve Toutonghi said, “The machines of the mind are more difficult to recognize than the machines of iron and steam.” As an adult the pressure to be responsible, to be recognized, to be busy, to be essential is real and powerful (and sometimes needed…). But it is not what makes us whole. The “machines of the mind” can prevent us from being complete and convince ourselves that, as adults, we are machines of responsibility.
It wasn’t until I lost my sandal in the mud that it really sank in (I know I am a pun MACHINE today). I remembered how much I loved wandering through the park near my house, creating adventures with my friends Dave and Tim, fishing in the farm pond, catching a largemouth bass, walking in the muddy wetlands near the pond, and feeling the mud between my toes. I realized that I fish partially because it helps me connect to those moments in my childhood and the fantastic emotions and feelings of those times. Feeling like I can be silly, excited, and connected to my childhood is what keeps me from feeling like a machine the most. I had nearly forgotten those memories. I can’t lose the child inside me: the curiosity, the silliness, the explorer, the feeling that there is so much ahead of me. I am way more than part of a machine; I am me. Thanks, Cam, for helping me see myself more completely (and find my sandal!).
As an update I have been practicing my casting! I’ve practiced around 30 minutes each week for the past two weeks. Learning lots and getting better each time!