“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.” -Rachel Carson
“I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I am always amazed, and a little caught of guard when adulthood rears it’s responsible face. For me being an adult is more than just a how I act, after all I have seen some big people appear to be acting in an adult-like way but who turned out to be nothing more than school yard nitwits. I am more interested in the adult mind, the thoughts and philosophies that age like cheddar and evolve with us as we move towards our vintage years.
Recently I have been spending my time working with youth, although working may be a stretch at times. The truth is we have been spending much of the summer canoeing, hiking, fishing and playing the odd game of Magic when the weather keeps us inside. I suppose I am teaching them useful skills like how to paddle an efficient ‘J’ stroke in a canoe, how to tease a bass out of the weeds and how to cope with your anger and anxiety so navigation of this crazy society of ours is possible, but I think it has been a two way street of learning so far.
A few weeks ago we were fishing for small mouth and crappies beneath an old dam, me tossing 6” streamers for the supposed “40 inch pike” that numerous other fisherman had told me about (more on that untruth factory later) and my young buddy chucking a worm draped 10/0 hook he found in his tackle box. It has been a real pleasure watching his ability to cast, read water and catch quality fish develop over the summer. What is more rewarding for me is watching his unabashed joy, his live out loud in the moment fearless ability to feel happiness. On his second or third cast I hear at high decibels “Get down here, I just caught the beast, I have the beast, I am so freaking happy, dude look at this fish!”
At the moment, out of respect for the other fisherman’s space and (assumed) appreciation for the serene summer day we were enjoying, I told him to be happy for his rad bass but to keep his volume down. It wasn’t until the drive home that I thought about how his reaction was sheer, unfiltered happiness and that I shouldn’t have tried to bottle his joy just to maintain the image of the humble fisherman or reverent outdoorsman. If you have spent time on the water with rod in hand you know that moment of happy humility: you catch a nice fish, allow a wry smile to develop, maybe high five a friend or just internalize the feeling of accomplishment, with only a truly great fish bringing out a whoop and a holler. I don’t think it’s complacency that fosters that response, maybe it’s just that sometimes we feel like we earned or somehow deserve that fish, peak, or clean whitewater run so therefore by achieving that goal the universe make sense again.
So for those adults in the audience, remember that just because you pay bills on time and wear big kid clothes doesn’t mean that you’ve outgrown the ability to live with a child like enthusiasm for life. We have too many childish adults running around out there so don’t let your decorum and civility go out with the bathwater, but don’t be afraid to yell when you’re happy. We hike, climb, paddle, bike and fish because our inner child loves it and needs the moments those activities allow us.
September is here and although the forecast for today is 92 with a heat index of 100, summer is pulling back to reveal cool nights, colored leaves and the welcome return of bug- free life in Maine. The clock on 2018 is ticking so plan that end of summer trip and remember while you’re out there and you gain that peak, reach your island campsite on the salt pond or stick that 5 pound small mouth let out a good whoop and holler, do a little dance and don’t worry for one second what anyone else around you thinks, judging your inner child would be just flat out childish.
Paul Sveum, a former Maine Sport Outfitters employee, is a Registered Maine Guide, Fly Fishing Guide, Bushcraft & Survival Instructor, and a blogger…among many other things.