Waves too flat to surf, the morning called for spearing off a local jetty. In the water by 6:30AM and first light, the tide was calm and low, exposing some rock structure that’s normally deeper and a little harder to hunt. Visibility a mere 6′, the tip of my spear disappears into the dark. Lips and face numb from cold, diving, the bottom appears out of a murky green nowhere.
Waiting, watching, stalking. Silence.
My breath-holding is getting better, more relaxed. Enter a world of starfish, anemone, of gliding and pulling myself between rocks and into small crevices. I found one spot I kept returning to, a crevice at about 15-20′ deep that was a perfect size to crouch upright in, wedging my legs between the rocks to steady against the tide, it afforded a good view. Be ready to shoot fast, as the fish emerge from nowhere. Within 20 minutes of diving we have three good sized perch between us. When I started spearfishing it struck me as somewhat improbable and absurd -yet beautifully primal- to be able to swim into the ocean and successfully hunt with nothing but a spear. Now I’m beginning to believe it’s more productive than using a hook and line.
“Acts have their being in the witness. Without him who can speak of it? In the end one could even say that the act is nothing, the witness all.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
The desert often fills my dreams, leaving me longing for vast expanses where land meets sky, the silence. While I sit here the deserts wait, waiting for me to make them real again.
Adan and I slipped away for some exploring in the Joshua Tree back country. Took the low road in through a wash and canyon, the high road out on ridges and peaks. Don’t let the sunshine fool you; daytime was in the low 40s and high 30s with nighttime temps dropping as low as 17 degrees.
“Dude, this is so much better than sitting in front of the Xbox!”, J says to my son as we’re hiking in. “I know, right?”, he responds.
Overhearing this brief exchange brings a slight smile to my face. Right now, they get it.
Every adult I know is guilty of, at some point or another, griping about “kids these days”. Most often the complaints center on how they’re constantly plugged-in, only interested in games and gadgets and low-attention span gimmicks. Or about how they’ve become entitled and lazy, how they lack imagination in play, how they seem to be losing the desire to even go out and play.
I have been working with children for my entire adult life, primarily as a high school teacher for the last 13 years. I do everything I can to listen. Throughout my years of interaction, I believe “kids these days”, regardless of age, deserve far more credit and much less blame than we give them.
Last I checked, 9 year olds don’t have the ability to buy gaming systems and flat screen TVs for themselves. The iPod and smart phone were not invented and marketed to children by teenagers. 11 year olds don’t have the ability to take themselves hiking and it takes a parent to plop a toddler down in front of an “educational” DVD. The devices that increasingly keep them indoors and disconnected from the natural world and creative, physical play have been provided for them by adults, marketed and pushed upon them by adults, and profited from by adults. Left to their own devices, I’m not sure the world adults have created would be the world kids would choose.
Sadly, they’ve been increasingly left to our devices, quite literally, left alone and handed screens and phones and games instead of attention, bikes, or adventures.. Combine this with the reality that many parents are increasingly adverse to letting their kids out of the house for unstructured playtime, despite all statistics pointing to the idea that our streets are safer than they ever have been, and we have a recipe for the most sedentary generation we have ever seen.
And adults have the nerve to wonder why kids are disconnected, why they don’t build forts anymore, why they choose video games over going outside when going outside was never really an option they were given in the first place.
What’s wrong with “kids these days”? Nothing is wrong with our kids.
We, the adults, the people in charge, are the problem.
We have to take them. We have to show them. We have to teach them. We have to find ways to engage them.
We have to make time for them.
I speak passionately about the mountains and share countless outdoor stories with my students; I’m met with questions and excitement…and too often the let-down that soon follows as many realize they have no way to get there, nobody to take them.
This has to change and kids are not the ones that can change it.
Get your own kids out. Get someone else’s kids out. Get involved.