The month of June rushed by so fast that I was not able to even find time to write a blog entry for the month. This is not to say that I didn’t have things on mind though. “Water under the bridge” is the term I believe. For here we are in July and I have still been keeping myself very busy. Busy in the best of ways I think. That kind of busy where you feel good about the things that you are creating and accomplishing. Being busy though can create a sense of urgency and can make us rush things better approached with patience.
One of the challenges most every blog author has is to have content that people can learn from. More importantly though is having content that people want to read. I don’t like to wax philosophical for the sake of it and each of the drafts I started for June were frankly a bit too contrived and forced. I like finding inspiration for my writing in my real-life experiences of becoming aware of something or finding something that truly moves me to write. Ideas and thoughts seem to take some time to ferment into clarity.
Speaking of fermentation... a good part of the last several weeks I have been dabbling in the world of microbiology. More specifically yeasts and sourdough starters. My interest was piqued after reading that yeasts can be found in so many places in the wild and that these same yeasts can be used for making sourdough starters. So, I did some backyard microbiology experimenting and made a starter from the yeast I took off an aspen tree in my backyard. If you have ever looked closely enough at an aspen tree, then you might have noticed a fine dust that the tree bark holds on to. This is a wild yeast! I cultivated this with a flour and water “emulsion” and made a bread starter.
There is a lot to be learned when creating a good loaf of bread. It is not as easy as just throwing ingredients into a jar. It is a slow and attentive nurturing process. Like caring for a garden, keeping a yeast alive and thriving required a connection to the process. It is a very visceral effect for me. The key tenant of making sourdough is patience. Each step required patience and an attention to detail. At times there is a desire to rush the process, or to “do something” when you are best to just let things be. I have made this mistake a few times now in different ways. It is still the same mistake of rushing to fulfill my goal and have gratification. Do you do this when you are fishing? I know I do sometimes.
Much like developing a good starter for making good bread we need to develop our attention to and practice of patience. We need to have focus and we need to be connected to the process. We also need to remember not to rush things and not to try an add anything that isn’t needed and allow ourselves to just be a part of the experience. There is process we each need to find for how we approach a stream.
Learn to go slow and do not forget or skip steps in our process. When we allow ourselves the discipline to just watch and let things process we often have better outcomes. Don’t rush the water and start casting. Read the water and understand the flow. Position yourself so that you aren't scaring away fish and are presenting the best way possible for the steam. Don’t get your feet wet if you don't need to. Stay out of the water unless you need to and if you do want to get closer, cast to the area you are going to stand before going in. Sometimes that is exactly where a fish might be feeding.
By being patient and focused we condition our minds to be more present and we hone our technique for fishing tenkara. Our minds may still push and nag at us. We might hear our minds telling us to change out our fly, we may retrieve our line too quickly or we may forget our ceiling or back cast and find our flies catching trees. The more we are awake to these irritating inclinations to speed up or make changes too quickly the more we can be connected to our fishing moments.
We all have those days on the water where we just can’t seem to cast or maybe even set a hook. When this happens, we need to stop and do nothing for a minute. Give ourselves as much time as we need to get back to our center of focus. I have found though that by doing nothing sometimes my mind comes back to the present moment and I can carry on forward from there. Slowing down actually allows our brain to switch over and process less from a reactionary approach but rather from an active and mindfully assertive way.
So what have I been busy with?
A lot of time these last few weeks has been spent in my shop. I have had several sales on spools and have begun working on creating upgraded tenkara rod handles. The work has been satisfying creatively and I enjoy the challenge. I think it is important to keep on growing and to keep on learning. Sometimes problems are best approached as if they were puzzles. I had to figure out how to remove a cork handle from a rod without damaging the rod. Then I had to figure out the design process and how to make those designs ideas happen. Along the way I had a few false starts but eventually I found my way to a practical process. Each challenge I met though required me to slow down and let my brain nurture an idea.
So far, I am happy with the rod handles that I have made, and my imagination has become ignited. Only through nurturing our processes and allowing ideas to ferment can we start to see the answers we need to the questions that arise. I really love getting lost in my work and I can get over excited about ideas. Each step of creating anything has starts, stops and restarts.
While I have now applied this idea of nurturing to sourdough starter, tenkara fishing and woodworking, it is obvious that it applies to our lives overall as well. Too often we get lost in our day to day work and responsibilities. Stress takes over and our minds can slip into a mode of “fight or flight”. The answer again is to stop everything and center ourselves. Put things on pause and just allow time to pass. You may also find that your situation is calling out loudly for you to do something in the way of nurturing yourself.
Our lives are bombarded with to-do lists and expectations for what life is supposed to look like. If we become imprisoned by those things we may notice that life isn’t fun or happy. We all can find happiness. It does take patience, practice and attention to detail.
If you have a rod that is in need of a new handle let me know and we can talk about keeping that favorite rod in use with a whole new look that is personalized.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.