July 2023

Thoughts about…

Protecting Our Time

Embracing the moment is at the heart of every immersive experience. You have to be here and you have to be now if you want to experience that feeling of being swept up in a thing. And I know you do, because we all do. We all want to be the heroes in our own story. We all want to see our lives as the cinematic montage where we’re the protagonist channeling everything we’ve got into overcoming this challenge to achieve that goal.

What this ultimately means is that we don’t actually have to thru-hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail, for example, in order to have an immersive outdoor experience. But many of us do undertake huge challenges such as hiking the PCT (or, in my case, the Appalachian Trail) because we believe that’s the only way to be fully immersed in that outdoor environment and lifestyle. Admittedly, a long thru-hike is a different experience compared to a weekend backpacking trip. However, if you know how to be present you can always achieve an immersive experience no matter the situation.

Stopping to admire the blooming Arrowleaf Balsamroot after work on June 3, 2023. © Jared Manninen

The problem, though, is that being present is seldom easy. Again, that’s one reason why we do tackle big adventures or engage in long-term commitments. It’s a numbers game when you get down to it. By repeatedly participating in an activity over the long term, we’re going to have more opportunities to embody the practice and, therefore, eliminate most barriers to achieving a flow state during our experience.

I’m sure I’ve said this before regarding proficiency but if we only do a thing a couple of times a year, for example, we’re going to be spending most of that time re-learning the rules or processes involved. As a result, we’ll experience the actual activity to a far lesser degree. So proper repetition is the key to learning anything and everything. And that includes being present.

Stark contrast from the Caldor Fire at Saxon Creek on June 7, 2023. © Jared Manninen

Probably the main reason that being present isn’t easy is because we all face countless options, opportunities, and distractions on a daily basis (if not minute by minute!). It takes a lot of work to be here and now because everything and everyone conspires to steal our time and prevent us from accomplishing our goals. Now, this isn’t to say that our friends and loved ones are intentionally trying to sabotage our efforts. I’m just saying that every text we respond to while out on the trail or every time we address some busy-body task when we’re trying to write the next great American novel, for example, pulls us out of the immersive experience.

If we’re not careful and don’t establish boundaries prior to our adventure, we can really spoil it just by constantly hitting the pause/play button during that time. If it’s a crisis, sure, take the call. But anything less than life or limb can wait until you’re done with that 30-minute daily walk to the local park during your lunch break or during that single hour of quiet time before work that you have to create your masterpiece.

Friday night shenanigans at Fallen Leaf Lake on June 9, 2023. © Jared Manninen

It’s perfectly alright to not be available for an hour, an afternoon, or a day, particularly if you’re trying to focus on you and your own life experience. Heck, I go for weeks and often months of essentially being unavailable in certain situations. Do I feel bad about that? Sometimes. But I’d feel worse if, at the peril of my own passions and goals, I dropped everything I was doing every time somebody wanted (not needed) something from me. Not to sound nihilistic but, again, if it’s not a matter of life or limb it’s probably not that important no matter just how much it may seem like it’s that important.

What is important, however, is your time. You have to be confident and committed enough to protect it at all costs because unlike money, you can never recover lost time. You can try to make up for it, but once that hour or day or month passes, it’s gone forever. And none of us are getting any younger. So, hopefully, during that time you’ve made some lasting memories lest you regret how you prioritized your time.

View while hiking up Tahoe Mountain in search of a Nashville Warbler on June 12, 2023. © Jared Manninen

Back in the late 90s when I was attending college, I began to immerse myself in drawing and painting. I remember reading about Andrew Wyeth, the famous American realism painter of the 20th century, while studying various other artists. He was a man-out-of-time because most of his contemporaries had moved away from realism to explore abstract approaches to creating art. That isn’t to say that he didn’t have plenty of patrons or wasn’t successful, because he absolutely did and was.

However, the part of his story that’s always stuck with me was that his wife was his protector. More specifically, she protected his time so that he could produce without needless interruption. Again, despite holding firm to his roots in realism, many people came calling for him. So, his wife spent a fair amount of time either rescheduling a meeting or flat-out shooing them away.

View from my daily work commute on June 18, 2023. © Jared Manninen

A similar scenario is illustrated in the movie The Whole Wide World which was about the famous American pulp fiction writer of the 1920s and 1930s, Robert E. Howard. If you’re not familiar with Howard, he was the creator of Conan the barbarian and other popular fictional characters. In that movie, Howard’s mother assumes the role of protector by preventing a potential love interest from contacting him on more than one occasion. Keep in mind that Howard and his mother did have a unique relationship, and she wasn’t necessarily always looking out for his best interests. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that she knew enough to fend off potential disruptions while he was writing. Watch the movie and you’ll see that he totally gets into a flow state while being completely immersed in the writing experience.

View from the Upper Truckee Marsho on June 21, 2023. Or, as my friend says, “It looks like a Windows screen saver.” © Jared Manninen

Somehow I wandered down this path of lesser known movies, so I’ll share you with a quote by the absurd, comical, and satirical movie Art School Confidential. In one of its scenes, an older artist is trying to describe his creative process to a much younger fellow who’s looking for a fast-track to stardom. In their conversation the character, who also happens to be a serial killer, refers to his flow state when he says that the artist (himself) “… lives only for that narcotic moment of creative bliss.” I suspect he’s also referring to the act of committing murder but, hey, who said that wisdom couldn’t come from unlikely sources!

View while running a canoe down the Upper Truckee River with three of my co-workers on June 23, 2023. And, yes, we did capsize during the trip! © Jared Manninen

Anyway, I usually equate having an immersive experience or achieving some sort of flow state with athletics and artistic endeavors. This is probably because it’s in these two realms that a lot of research and discussion about immersion have occurred. But you can get into the zone doing anything so long as you embrace the moment and learn to forego everything that threatens to pull you out of that experience.

It’s a simple formula, it’s just not easy to perform.

Deep suncups in the snowpack at Carson Pass on June 24, 2023. © Jared Manninen

I’ve been working on my pocket guidebook all spring. During this process, though, I realized that I’m missing quality photos of a small handful of relatively uncommon birds. So, I’ve been birding as often as I can.

Another thing I realized is that even though I have decent pictures of most of the birds that I’m featuring in the book, I can always take better photos. So, I try not to get too discouraged when I don’t find those more uncommon birds by embracing what I can find 🙂

Once work started, my YouTube output definitely took a dive 🙂

It’s all good, though, because I needed a break from making videos. In the meantime, the following vlog is based on my last official xc ski session from the 2022-23 xc ski season.

I don’t have a specific online purchasing option for my greeting cards yet. However, if you did want to purchase one (or multiple), you could do it through the amber-colored button toward the bottom of this page that says “Support Tahoe Trail Guide.” This will take you to a PayPal paying option. You’ll have to type in the $ amount your sending, as well as a description of what you want. Also include:

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Lake Tahoe Greeting Cards (clockwise beginning at top left): Steller's Jay, Coyote, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, American Black Bear, Bald Eagle

Some Tahoe Trail Guide articles for your reading pleasure 🙂

Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…

-Jared Manninen

Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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American Black Bear in bushes

Returning from a town run for work on June 30, 2023, I saw this momma bear and her two cubs (not pictured). I stopped to photograph them, but quickly realized that momma bear was very curious about the ice cream I was transporting (for the resort) in the back of the truck. This is her sniffing the air for the ice cream. Needless to say, I moved along with haste! © Jared Manninen

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Last Month’s Newsletter (aka Recap in Video Format!)

To broaden my audience and get more mileage out of these newsletters, I’ve begun to adapt them into short videos for YouTube. I’ll incorporate short video clips into these recaps whenever possible as I do often capture nature videos when I’m outdoors (but don’t use the footage anywhere else). Essentially, I want to make two different presentations with a minimal amount of extra work rather than just creating a 1-to-1 adaptation of these text and photo versions of my newsletters.

Categories: Newsletters
Tags: #2023

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