On fewer but righter things

December 30th, 2016, Presque Isle, Wisconsin 

December 30th, 2016, Presque Isle, Wisconsin 

I spent the last few days alone in the woods.

I was camping on a rise of conifers in northern Wisconsin, a spot I discovered years ago while grouse hunting. It's an area I call the Cathedral. I borrowed the name from one of my favorite writers, Gordon MacQuarrie. He called a rise of conifers that he discovered in northern Wisconsin while grouse hunting the same.

If you're making your way by foot this time of year, snowshoes are required. As are a good amount of resolve and a layering system that allows for the quick ditching of clothes. Put simply, pulling a sled through heavily crusted snow is a bitch. The progress I made was largely thanks to increments and incentives of my own invention: Counting my steps in groups of 17, for example, seemed to speed things along, as did "Make it to that next birch tree, Johnny, and it's Snickers bars for everybody!"

Well, I made it to that next birch tree. And the one after that. And so on. Until finally it was time to turn off-trail and push through a rolling pincushion of sled-snagging maples. Eventually, they gave way to the rise of fir and balsam and pine. To borrow again from MacQuarrie, the Cathedral took me in.

Camp sets up quickly in the winter; meaning your tent, your situation, your supplies. For the first few hours, anyway, there's little time for dicking around. Stomp out a spot for the tent, get it up, get your gear inside. You do it as quickly as you can so you can move on to a more important matter: the business of fire. Although actually, the busy-ness of fire might be a more accurate description.

They say you should gather three times more wood than you think you'll need before striking a spark. I say that's cutting it close. I collected some dry birch and cedar bark from fallen trees on the trek in, so getting the fire started wasn't a concern. But man, keeping it fed! A new fire, especially in the winter, is a hungry fire.

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. 

But eventually. Eventually. You'll find yourself with a good bed of coals. You'll have dried your gloves. You'll have a pile of wood and a place to sit and a single bottle of Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA that you sledded in, weight be damned.

On the edge of the fire's glow, you'll see your tent protecting the barest of necessities: a tiny camp stove, tomorrow's breakfast, an embarrassment of goose down. You have tropicalia music that you'll play through your phone speaker at dawn like a transistor radio. You have a candle lantern and a bag of jerky and the solitude of the outdoors.

Everything you have with you has a purpose. Everything earned its spot on the sled. 

As we move into a new year, I'm hoping to carry that mindset forward. I don't need more things – I just need the right things. I don't need more undertakings, more accomplishments, more checks added to my list – I just need the right ones.

Taking a look over my shoulder, I've come to realize that I've been pulling an unnecessarily clumsy load. It's time to tip the sled and start over. It's time to think in terms of fewer, but righter, things.

Happy New Year everyone.

Island Silence

Island Silence

I spent last week on Sanibel Island in Florida.

Although it was a full-on family vacation of the time-share variety, and Sanibel isn't necessarily the islandiest of islands, the rum mixed well with the ocean air and the wind laid down enough for a few fantastic trips onto the gulf for some fishing and diving. 

Finally! Fresh fodder for Bring Limes!


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Dreams are needs

What a great line that is: "Dreams are needs." It's the culmination of this video by Duct Tape Then Beer. As you may have noticed by now, I'm a huge sucker for "reminder videos." The ones that remind me to get out there and be the person I aspire to be. 

It's officially March. In 11 days, the clocks change. Now is the time for the planning of trips and the prepping of gear. Now is the time to get excited.

Start with this video right here. And if you're so inclined, I included links to a few more below.

10,000 hours? How about let's start with 10 and see how it goes.

I thought this might pass as a yoga image. It's actually a picture I took in a bar during happy hour. But you probably suspected that.

I thought this might pass as a yoga image. It's actually a picture I took in a bar during happy hour. But you probably suspected that.

I recently began practicing yoga. 

I shit you not.

I've had several non-yoga types (aka my people) rave to me lately about yoga. About how I should try it. About how it stretches stuff you didn't know needed stretching. Fortuitous timing, I'll admit, since I've had this vague sense for a while now that some of my stuff could use a stretch.

For starters, there's a tightness in my hamstrings that's getting harder to ignore. A lack of snow this year put the brakes on snowboarding, which I deftly replaced with a winter’s worth of ale and atrophy. The ramifications of this decision are now conspiring against me.

But there's also this: I've noticed a tightness in my heartstrings too... a spiritual contraction... other soul-related metaphors. It's nothing catastrophic. Hell, it's not even mildly dramatic. It's just an odd little mood that's been catching me on occasion. I'm sure there's a clinical term for it. Maybe "Late Winter in the Midwest." 

Anyway, this is how I came to find myself lying on a rubber mat in a darkened room at 6 a.m. On my left, a tiny woman doing elegant upside-down yoga things with smooth arms and strong legs and healthy heart. And on my right, a younger guy with a thick beard who was easily three times her size. He was sweaty and wobbly and, I don't know, approximate in his moves. Smack in between 'em was me. Sweaty and wobbly and approximate too, with just an extra yoga class or two under my belt.

I don't know either one of them. In fact, I don't know anyone in the entire room. The only words I've spoken in my five or six yoga classes so far are my name when I sign in, and "thank you" when I'm done. Instead of making small talk, I prefer focusing 100% of my energy toward my yoga mantra: "Don't tip over... don't tip over... don't tip over..."

The silence suits me. As does the solitude. I've always gravitated toward solo pursuits: silent sports, corner stools, writing (the introvert's ultimate escape). Clearly I'm not what they call "a team player." To me there's just always been something wonderful about private victories. And something forgiving about private failures, if I'm being honest. 

So it could be very weird for me to be in a room full of people, sticking my ass in the air. Especially since almost everyone one in the room is better at sticking their ass in the air than I am.

But it's not weird. It's not weird at all. In fact, I'm thankful that they're with me. And I'm thankful that I'm with them. 

Yes, I'm as rickety as can be. And I'm probably the only one who thinks it's fun to imagine he's longboarding during the Warrior 2 pose. But I feel like I belong there. Quietly attempting something gangly and new. Stretching things I didn't know needed to be stretched. Surrounded by others who, at some point in their lives, decided to do the same.

Go big and go home

Off the grid and tiny. These are two popular themes in homes these days.

More often than not, though, "off the grid and tiny" translates to poorly joined plywood, battery-powered wifi, and a precious name ending in "ita." All of which exists for the sole purpose of being painstakingly documented on Instagram.

OG snowboarder Mike Basich's tiny off-the-grid house ain't that. His shit is crafted. Like really crafted. And way bigger than the sum of its parts.

Mike was tearing it up on the snowboarding tournament circuit 15 years ago. He was doing well and living large. And then one day he decided to bail on all that. He spent the next 5 years building the coolest little place I can imagine. The stonework alone took him 2 1/2 years, all done by hand. His hand.

What do you do when you're done? You call your buds and you build a friggin' chairlift to go with it! 

I love building things. The sense of gratification and pride is so rewarding. But aside from a few sketchy snow caves over the years, I've never slept in a place that I've built. This alone has the gears in my head turning. Combine that with the careening clown car that we call 2015 America and, well, I might be building sooner rather than later.

Stop Sense Making

Tree forts don't make sense. A compound of tree forts, high in the mountains, overlooking your own massive poured concrete skate bowl, really doesn't make sense. But Foster Huntington just went ahead and did that shit anyway.

You can get his story here, and check out his excellent blog called A Restless Transplant.

But what you should really do is watch the short film below. It's a leisurely look at the year it took for him and his buds to build and settle into Cinder Cone. It's a very well put together piece, documenting a very well put together place.

The whole thing leaves me feeling a little jelly, of course. But what it really does is leaves me thinking about the no-sense-making shit I should get started on myself.

Four plates vs. the conspiracy of stuff

Four plates vs. the conspiracy of stuff

Several years ago, my family and I were staying in a small cottage, on a small bay, on a small island, on the southernmost edge of the Caribbean Sea.

The cottage had no screens on the windows. No hot water. No super automatic espresso machine with an intuitive user interface and built-in burr grinder. No. Instead, there were mosquito nets for sleeping, a cistern of rainwater for washing, and glasses full of that same rainwater with a squeeze of lime for breakfast drinks. 

The walls of the cottage, pink and blue and green...

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