Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 14, 2012

MARTINO: Solitude may be more rewarding than the harvest

‘Mother of All Morels’ contest set to begin on Monday

Tribune columnist

— Through the years I have covered many outdoor-related topics, from the serious to the not-so-serious. Although I have briefly touched on the area of solitude provided by our open spaces, I have never dedicated an entire column to the subject.

There are several reasons for this. The first is because of classical literature. Some of our world’s greatest philosophers delved into this subject with great detail, expressing it far better in words than this outdoor scribe could ever attempt to. Second, it is an intrinsic value I probably know little about, although I recognize it is something intangible, yet so invaluable.

Most of us were forced to sit through high school English class reading the classic works of scholars like Henry David Thoreau. Maybe this is one reason I hate Thoreau, even though he had a passion for fishing. While many of his books are considered masterpieces and insightful, his writings appear disjointed.

Even though decades have passed since high school English class, there are several passages I have always remembered. This is a minor miracle considering my mind was usually consumed with what to do after school!

In the book “Walden Pond,” Thoreau wrote, “I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude itself.” Later on he penned, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”

When I was younger, I enjoyed being outdoors alone, but for a reason other than finding solitude. It was a time unobstructed where extreme focus could be spent trying to hook that trophy smallmouth bass or catching a largemouth worthy of hanging on the wall. To some degree, it’s still that way.

Don’t get me wrong. Being with family and friends while outdoors is wonderful and these are the times special memories are made. I personally prefer their company the majority of the time. But the focus is more on social interaction rather than the experience itself. When other people are present, rules of conversation require that you listen and interact.

For most of us, we become intent on making sure our companions are comfortable and encounter success. When alone, there are no distractions. The only comments we hear are those from inside our own head.

True solitude has become a lost art in this day of ultra-connectedness. Are we ever really alone with the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, email and text messaging?

When it comes to solitude, you don’t have to be a monk to find it or a hermit to enjoy it. It’s closer and easier to find than you think. Although I don’t necessarily regret the beauty of our high-tech global community, I do think there is a healthy need to step back from it occasionally.

Early one morning last weekend, I decided to spend a few short hours wading our Wildcat Creek. For once, the purpose wasn’t so much to catch fish, but rather to enjoy solitude. The sun had barely cleared the horizon when I slipped on my waders. The sweet smell of new spring growth hung heavy in the damp air. Stepping off the bank I immediately felt the cool water as the current swirled around my legs. The crisp morning breeze felt invigorating. The call of a kingfisher and other songbirds provided a natural symphony. Generally speaking, it felt good to be alive.

When alone, we seem to be more aware of small things normally overlooked. You notice the textures of the bottom, moss growing on rocks and shadows that scurry from your quiet approach. You move slower and more deliberate and your thoughts start to do the same. With no distractions you begin dissecting those problems that can make life such a tedious proposition. You soon find yourself calmer and calculated with a new understanding that those things that seemed so insurmountable are for the most part trivial.

Upon returning home you are neither unhappy nor overjoyed, but you feel cleansed. Maybe Thoreau was right — maybe it isn’t fish we are really after.

Mother of All Morels Contest

No one knows the day it will start or for sure when it will end. But, when April showers give way to several warm days, woodlots become filled with enthusiastic, probing Hoosiers hoping to find one of nature’s most succulent bounties. Adding to this short-lived springtime excitement, local radio station WWKI will host its ninth annual Mother of All Morels contest. The contest will start Monday and conclude at 5 p.m. on April 30.

The brainchild of avid sportsmen and radio personality Kevin Burris, the popular event draws in the most fantastic fungi found in Indiana.

“This has been a strange year,” said Burris, when referring to this spring’s unusually warm weather. “Hopefully with the rain being forecasted, conditions may improve.”

Burris encourages anyone who thinks they have found the most magnificent morel to bring it by the WWKI office, 519 N. Main St., Kokomo, during regular business hours. Last year, Mickey Gurske swept the event with a massive morel stretching nearly 21 inches long.

The person who finds this season’s “Mother of All Morels” will take home valuable prize packages which include gift certificates from Bass and Bucks Outdoor Store, Foxes Den Restaurant, morelmania.com and a spinning rod and reel compliments of this outdoor scribe.

Adams Auto Sponsors Benefit Bass Tourney

In its ongoing effort to give back to the community, Adams Auto Group again will sponsor an open team bass tourney benefiting this summer’s Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic.

The tournament will be held May 12 on the Kokomo Reservoir between 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the purchase of additional fishing equipment and safety-related items for the 135 children who will take part in this summer’s nationally recognized youth fishing program.

“We appreciate all those involved with the Kids Fishing Clinic and what they are accomplishing,” said business owner Brian Adams. “Hosting the benefit tourney is our way of supporting the clinic, community and the kids.”

• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.