The Mules would like to thank Mr. Ilan Funke-Bilu for representing the Mules and the support and energy received this past week from the Nation the Three Mules Nation. San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office will be declining to file a criminal complaint against the Mules, so our court appearance on March 23, 2020 will be unnecessary. Therefore, we are able to continue on our journey following the former Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach route east to Kern County. Message received yesterday from our attorney Mr. Funke-Bilu:
I am pleased to announce that District Attorney Dan Dow has advised me today, February 1, 2020, that the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office will be declining to file a criminal complaint against my client, Mule, “in the interest of justice.” Mr. Dow is to be applauded for doing the right thing and doing the right thing swiftly. Mule was traveling across America as he has done for many years, bothering no one, minding his own business. America’s roads are designed for its citizens, its cars, its horses, its mules, its pedestrians, its travelers. Let’s share our roads and be mindful that some of us move a little slower on them. Mule teaches us that life is not a sprint, but a marathon.
Wednesday, January 22, 2020, after walking 15.3 miles from Pleyto and past Lake Nacimiento, we stopped here along G14 to spend the night. We have walked this scenic back road route repeatedly in past years.
On Thursday morning, I awoke, fixed breakfast and packed up the mules. We got back onto G14 heading towards Paso Robles and walked approximately three hours when a California Highway Patrol (CHP) cruiser pulled up along side us. He said he had been getting calls that we were walking on the road. He asked me to do him a favor and not walk on the road. My reply was that the Mules have the right to walk on the road. We are not breaking any laws and we will continue to do so for the simple reason that we have the right to. There was no alternative side road or trail along G14 to walk to Paso Robles. At that point he left.
We continued walking 10-15 minutes when the CHP officer returned with another CHP officer in another cruiser. He stopped in front of us, got out of his cruiser and told us that we could not walk on the road. We reasserted our right to walk on the road.
It was obvious if you looked at the road there was no where else to walk. we were walking as far to the edge as possible. Little Girl who I was leading was walking right abreast of me and Little Ethel was abreast of Little Girl. Little Ethel was the one furthest in the road. There was plenty of room for a passing motorist, slowing his or her automobile (which is required by California law when approaching other legal users – cyclists, equestrians, pedestrians – of the public thoroughfare) to an appropriate speed to safely pass. Motorists on G14 were doing so, slowing down and passing safely with no problem.
The officer continued to assert that we could not walk on the road. We continued to assert we had the right to walk on the road and that we could not sprout wings to go anywhere else as we were landlocked and there was no alternative way to walk out of where we were standing. We went back and forth like that for a good period of time. Officer trying to convince us that we had no right to walk on the road which was ludicrous.
The California Driver’s Handbook clearly states that equestrians have the right to use the public thoroughfare.
Horse-drawn vehicles and riders of horses or other animals are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles. It is a traffic offense to scare horses or stampede livestock. Slow down or stop, if necessary, or when requested to do so by the riders or herders.
Side note: On August 31, 2013 in Morgan Hill California we had a similar encounter where the Mules were stopped by California Highway Patrol and told to get off the road or be arrested. (Details here.) We had no place to get off the road where we were without walking on the road (because we don’t have wings). We were arrested and mules impounded for “Code 2800(a) VC – Disobey Peace Officer – Lawful Order“.
Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler dismissed the case based on the arrest being invalid. Citation was for “disobeying the lawful order of a peace officer” when the Mules refused to leave the highway. Judge Nadler determined that the Mules had a legal right to be on the highway and therefore was not disobeying an officer since the Mules were abiding by the law. Below is video taken by documentary film maker John McDonald interviewing Judge Nadler about our case.
“I’m Jerry Nadler, I’m a superior court judge for Santa Clara County. On September 5, 2013 I was handling what’s called the arraignment calendar in the South County Courthouse of Santa Clara County in Morgan Hill and he was on my arraignment court calendar and in custody. He was charged with a vehicle code violation of failing to follow the orders of a peace officer.
Well here’s a guy that is simply proceeding down the side of the road lawfully with his mules and people are simply distracted because they haven’t seen mules in a long time. Unfortunately the system doesn’t work really well with really unique individuals or types of cases. And perhaps Mr. Sears is that sort of unique case where he’s charged with an offense that it appears that he had better insights about than the officer.
You know the officer is really concerned about protecting the highway, especially on a holiday weekend. But the officer still has to be aware of what the law is with regard to it as well. And again in this case it is sort of a unique case. I’m sure it’s the first mule case the officer has ever run into. But again, the officer is obligated to know what the law is. And, if the law allows for a pedestrian and his animals to be on the highway, then he’s got to perhaps make some other decisions. But I can certainly understand why the officer acted the way he did.”
Jerry Nadler, Superior Court Judge for Santa Clara County
We bantered back and forth for a good period of time when the officer finally said if I come back again you will be arrested and your animals will be impounded. He then left with his fellow officer.
Well now what were we to do? There was no side roads to take off on. There was nothing but G14. There was no cell phone service for us to call or post for trailer assistance. The officer offered no alternative means for which we could safely proceed to our destination of Paso Robles. We had no choice but to stand there on the side of the road for hell to freeze over or to continue to walk to Paso Robles on G14. So we had to do just that, because again, the mules and myself do not have wings.
After walking 10 minutes further down the road, the officer was stationed with his partner on a side road to our left. I do not know the name of this side road or if it was an alternative road to get to Paso Robles. The officer got out of his cruiser, approached me, stepped in front of me and said I was under arrest. He then took the lead rope from my hand and handed the lead rope to the other officer who took Little Girl and Little Ethel to the other side of the road and told me I was under arrest. He asked me to put my hand behind my back, which I did. Then he hand cuffed me, took me to his cruiser, opened the door, and asked me to get inside, which I did. I offered absolutely no resistance.
We have now been charged with obstruction. We were not charged for walking on the highway because we had every right to be walking on the highway. We have been charged with obstruction resisting arrest. I did not resist arrest. Little Girl and Little Ethel were taken to San Luis Obispo Animal Services, while I was taken to San Luis Obispo County Jail where I was booked around 3pm and charged with resisting arrest under California Penal Code Section 148(a) PC, a broadly defined criminal offense that makes it illegal to intentionally resist, delay or obstruct a law enforcement officer.
If the CHP officer was able to contact animal services to bring a trailer to transport the mules and myself to San Luis Obispo 40 miles away, why couldn’t they make a decision to “provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security” and escort or order trailer to transport the Mules to Paso Robles our destination at the end of G14 about 5-10 miles away?
Side note: On New Year’s Day January 1, 2020, we had a similar encounter with San Benito County CHP (documented here) under much the same circumstance. However, San Benito County CHP gave up on telling us we couldn’t walk on the highway as they knew that we had the right to walk on that road as documented in the San Benito County General Transportation Plan. Instead, the officer relented on his assertion that we could not walk on the highway and offered us a solution that we could continue to walk along the shoulder of the road (which we were already doing) and they would escort us from behind to our destination San Juan Bautista. But at that moment, a local resident who followed our 3 Mules Facebook page stopped and told us that we had an alternative back road to walk to San Juan Bautista, which we took and no longer required a CHP escort. CHP did not tell us about this alternative route 100 yards away.
During booking, they took away my sandals that I was wearing so I was barefoot on the cold floor in jail wearing only a t-shirt and thin pants. Jails like to keep the temperature inside very cold. Don’t understand why my shoes were taken away. Did not have to share a cell with anybody. I paced from the time I entered the cell well into the next morning. Must have walked about 20 miles building the spiritual energy I knew that would be harbored and used to deal with our ongoing challenges of our upcoming court case and our use of the public thoroughfare.
I was released from jail without paying any bail with a court date to appear March 23, 2020 at 8AM in San Luis Obispo Superior Courthouse Annex Room 220, 1050 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408 .
After I was released from San Luis Obispo County Jail, I walked over to Animal Services next door where Little Girl and Little Ethel were housed. The cost for release is $266. We posted a GoFundMe to help pay for the cost for release and within minutes of posting reached the limit quicker than we could turn off the fundraiser to stop raising funds. A total of $500 was raised. The Mules are humbled by the response from those who donated quickly and generously to our request. Thank you very much. A detailed accounting with receipts on how this money was spent will be posted on this website.
While at the animal shelter, we had another dilemma. The mules were in San Luis Obispo, but our gear and belongings were at the CHP office in Templeton, 31-miles away. So we posted on our 3 Mules Facebook page asking if anybody could transport the three of us from San Luis Obispo to Templeton before CHP closed for the day.
The Nation, the Three Mules Nation, shared our request for trailer assistance. As well, Animal Control Supervisor Patrick was reaching out to his contacts to help find a trailer ride to reunite us with our belongings. He was able to find a group that could help but they couldn’t arrive until after 4pm, which risked us not getting to the CHP office 31 miles away before its closing for the weekend. The Mules want to recognize San Luis Obispo County Animal Shelter Supervisor Patrick and his staff for taking care of Little Girl and Little Ethel and trying to help us find a trailer ride to our belongings.
We received a private message from Jennifer who said she could assist and bring us to Templeton, which she did. While waiting for trailer ride, we met Jim who stopped by the animal shelter to offer his assistance as well. He lives near the CHP office and offered us to rest the night on his property so we could re-gather ourselves which we accepted.
Jennifer arrived at San Luis Obispo animal shelter with her trailer and drove us to CHP office in Templeton so that we cold pick up our pack boxes and other belongings.
We arrived at CHP Templeton in the afternoon to pick up our belongs. While there we had a conversation with CHP Lieutenant Coomer, who provided us a map outline every CHP Area boundary in the state and a document listing the contact telephone number for every CHP Communication Center and Area Office in the state. He said it might help if we the Mules called these area offices ahead of time and let them know we will be traveling through their area so that when the dispatchers get calls from the public, the dispatchers will know to be expecting it.
While we appreciate Lt. Coomer providing us this information, we live in the United States of America. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-know phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says have been given to all humans by their creator, and which governments are created to protect. Freedom of movement (travel) was also thought to be a fundamental right of all U.S. citizens during the drafting of the U.S. Constitution as not needing explicit enumeration. Lt. Coomer’s suggestion for us or any U.S. citizen to call law enforcement in every place we walk in California is requiring U.S. citizens to ask for permission to travel within California, which is against our unalienable rights and against state law.
If a concerned citizen calls dispatch and an officer comes out to investigate, the officer should know the California codes that we are allowed to walk where we are. The officer should communicate with dispatch and other law enforcement in the area of the situation, whether it be equestrian travelers, pedestrians, cyclists or people in wheel chairs.
In the California Driver Handbook, cyclists and equestrians have the right to take the lane if there is not sufficient shoulder on a road to ride or walk. Motorists must slow down or stop until they can safely pass leaving 3 feet for safety or until the cyclists, equestrian, or pedestrian has sufficient shoulder room to move aside.
The Mules were not breaking any laws walking on G14 as we were not cited for obstructing traffic because we were not. Traffic was simply required by law to slow and pass at a safe speed. We were cited for resisting arrest for disobeying a lawful order which was obviously not a lawful order. The officer wanted us to get off the road when we had no physical way to get out of the location where we were at (because we don’t have wings) without walking out of the location. We did not have phone service in the area to make any phone calls or post to the Nation, the Three Mules Nation, for trailer assistance. Again, the officer did not provide us any solutions or alternatives on how we would continue our journey without use of the public thoroughfare.
When we arrived at CHP Templeton office, Marcia and her daughter Tisha were there waiting for our arrival. Marcia has been a supporter and follower on 3 Mules Facebook page since June 16, 2014. We always enjoy when we get to connect a name we see regularly on our page via comments to a live person.
The Mules will continue to post more about this case as it evolves and progresses up to our March 23, 2020 arraignment in San Luis Obispo. Our next step is to obtain a copy of the CHP police report. The Mules feel that we were wrongly arrested because we had the right to walk on public thoroughfare G14. We feel that this citation and case should be dismissed immediately and that we should be reimbursed $266 of the mules impoundment fee.
The Mules are seeking a pro-bono attorney willing to represent us. Court Date scheduled for 3/23/2020 at 8 AM in San Luis Obispo Court Annex Room 220, 1050 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo, CA. If interested, please message us with your contact information.
We are as safe as anybody could be under those circumstances. It’s not our fault that the state of California is allowing these automobiles to move at these horrendous speeds. These speeds are killing people, maiming people, it goes on all day every day. The insurance rates are outrageous and very well understand the chances are that when you get into these automobiles with your children, your families, you’re going to turn into a bucket of blood. It happens every day, all day. These automobiles are not safe.
The Mules move at 2-3 miles per hour. We’re not going to hurt anybody. We never have. We don’t deal out death and destruction as we go along. The automobile does. We are not going to give up our right to move freely in this country.
These public thoroughfares are all that is left. There is no other mechanism to express your right to freedom to move that body of yours from one place to the next when you choose how you choose. When that’s gone, that’s the bone of freedom you don’t have any freedom.
We are not going to give it up. Our way of life depends on moving, living with our surroundings, the trees, the grass, the brush, the insects, the animals, with a meaningful relationship, reacting to these forces all day long with our feet on the ground surrounded by that energy. We have to have the right to do that using the public thoroughfare.
We’re not going to give up that right. When the Megatropolis tries to disguise its real purpose using safety as the mechanism, it’s real purpose is to remove all other venues other than the automobile from the public right of way. It’s to get rid of us, there is no question about it.
March 23, 2020 is a long time away to wait in San Luis Obispo for our arraignment.
Six years ago, on May 29, 2014, the Mules were cited in San Luis Obispo for sleeping outside, which we have slept outside for over half our life. Sleeping is another human necessity to eating and breathing. No life can stay awake and keep moving 24/7/365. Our citation for that case was dismissed on January 15, 2015. Read more about that San Luis Obispo case here.
At the time, a San Luis Obispo newspaper published an editorial that the Mules were a public nuisance, which we strongly disagree. We are one human being traveling with his or her animal companions living a nomadic life outside all day every day as our ancestors have done for hundreds of thousands of years with respect and reverence for this place we call home – Earth.
In 1776, while American patriots fought for their independence from England, Spanish Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza led more than 240 men, women and children, 695 horses and mules, 385 Texas Longhorn bulls and cows, some 1,800 miles to establish a settlement at San Francisco Bay. These families were the first colonists to come overland across the frontier of New Spain into present-day California. The trail was an attempt to ease the course of Spanish colonization of California by establishing a major land route north for many to follow.
The 1,210-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which extends from Nogales on the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona through the California desert and coastal areas in Southern California, the Central Coast to San Francisco, was designated a National Historic Trail in 1990 and a National Millennium trail in 1999 and part of the National Park Service unit.
In 2005, Caltrans began posting signs on roads that overlap with the trail route, so that people can follow the trail. The path taken by Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza is today on lands that are in private hands, on government military bases, or in some places accessible only to automobiles and inaccessible to pedestrians and equestrians.
Over the years the Mules have followed the Juan Bautista De Anza Historic Trail during our migratory journey and visited the sites along the trail such as the Presidio in San Francisco, Mission San Francisco de Asis, the Vicente Martinez adobe at the John Muir Historic Site in Martinez, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission San Luis Obispo, Mission San Gabriel, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Bautista Canyon in Hemet, and Anza-Borrego Desert.
Yesterday, January 2, 2020, the Mules walked the Old Stage Road historic route from San Juan Bautista to Salinas. The night before we stopped to rest for the night near the trailhead. In the morning, we met Kelly who stopped to greet the mules. After we ate breakfast and packed up, we headed for the Old Stage Road trailhead a hundred yards away.
While on the trail, we met Keith and Thais, but forgot to get their photo. They sent us the following e-mail following our meeting:
We first heard about you 2 years ago when we were at Buck’s in Woodside and read the article about your adventures. We had no idea that we would meet you today on the De Anza Trail near San Juan Bautista. It was a thrill to for us to see all 3 of the mules walking the trail as we were sitting there eating lunch. Thank you for stopping to chat with us briefly on your journey. We also hike for the same reason you walk – to keep that machinery of the brain in good working order. Thanks for that reminder. Safe travels, always.
Keith and Thais
After reading this email, found it incredible that Keith and Thais remembered reading about the Mules from Buck’s Woodside menu which the Mules stopped to visit in the Fall 2015 after we met the owner Jamis who invited us to his equestrian friendly restaurant with a hitching post out front. Buck’s sent us a copy of the Winter 2015 menu that the Mules were featured.
We continued our journey on the Anza Trail until we reached Salinas where we spent the night.
Where we spent the night in Salinas. This morning, we packed up and continuing South on the endless journey of the Nation, the Three Mules Nation.
The Mules were walking east on the shoulder of Chittenden Road (CA-129) in San Benito County towards San Juan Bautista. Suddenly a California Highway Patrol (CHP) cruiser appeared and stopped in front of us. A CHP officer exited his cruiser and requested we stop, freeze in place. We did not do that. Instead, we turned around and walked about 20 yards to a much safer place than the shoulder of the highway.
The officer followed us and upon reaching us asked where we were going. We replied, “Where we choose to go and we have the constitutional right in these United States to do just that using all city, county and state roads, which make up the public thoroughfare to travel and move freely in this country. The officer replied, “You’re on a highway and you do not have the right to be on the highway.”
The Mules knew of course the officer at best was mistaken and knew nothing of the vehicle code he was suppose to be enforcing at worst case was lying (Supreme Court and Federal Court decisions allow police to lie without any fear of accountability) and they do a lot.
“State Route 129 in San Benito County is classified as a Rural Minor Arterial* and is not included in the California Freeway and Expressway System. It is included in the Interregional Road System from Highway 1 to US 101, but is not designated as a High Emphasis or Focus Route. SR 129 is not part of the Scenic Highway System or the National Highway system.”
*Arterials. These facilities make up the principal network for through‐traffic within a community and often between communities. Arterials have between two and six traffic lanes and provide connections between residential areas, shopping areas, places of employment, recreational areas, and other places of assembly.
San Benito County’s General Plan Chapter 6 Transportation and Circulation page 6-9
So the situation remained in limbo with the Mules asserting their right to use the public thoroughfare Highway 129 and the CHP continuing to lie and tell us we were breaking the law by being on the highway. And if we got on it again we the Mules would be arrested and taken to jail.
Then the supervising officer told the Mules, “We don’t want to take you to jail, you’re not going to jail. Let’s find a way to solve the problem.” The Mules replied in no way are we going to negotiate our right to the public thoroughfare away. The supervising officer replied, “We are not asking you to do that. You can walk on the shoulder but not in the lane of traffic.” The Mules replied that’s exactly what we were doing when we were stopped by the officer. The supervising officer then said, “We will give you a CHP escort on 129 to San Juan Bautista.”
At that point, a lady appeared and introduced herself and said she has followed the 3 Mules page for many years. She then said we should take School Road over the hill to Anzar Road, which would take us into San Juan Bautista, which was no more than 100 yards from where we were. The Mules said good.
The CHP escorted us the 100 yards to School Road and left. We have not seen them since.
Photos of other people we met also walking along the road on New Year’s Day as we headed toward San Juan Bautista. It’s always good to see other people walking too.
Young green grass coming up everywhere from the past couple weeks rain. There will be plenty of feed for the mules as we move South to San Diego and hopefully plenty of oatmeal for the Monk.
Mules enjoying life, living in harmony with the energy that flows around, under, over and through them, the energy of the web of life. It’s what makes life worth living. Nothing else. Without it we are all doomed.
The veterinarian came out today to look at Little Girl. She has cellulitis. Maybe it’s time to retire her. We’ll wait and see.
In the meantime, the Mules are searching to purchase two 15.3 – 16 hand stout draft mules, 3 to 18 years of age. Must be easy to shoe and healthy. We don’t want white as it makes the mules too easy to spot at night for thieves and others with less than a legitimate intentions. If you have a mule for sale that fits this description, please private message photos, location, price and your contact information. Would like to see photos of teeth and video of back feet being picked up.
Clocks fall back one hour on Sunday. Daylight saving time became a national standard in 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act, which was established as a way to continue to conserve energy. The thinking was if it’s light out longer, that’s less time you’ll need to use the lights in your house.
Living outside all day every day, the Mules naturally wake up at dawn’s first light. In the late afternoon, we begin to look for a good place to stop to rest before nightfall. Thus, the Mules aren’t too affected by DST change. However, we do wear a watch to keep track of time when cooking with the pressure cooker and if we have a scheduled appointment.
On the morning of September 1, 2019, the Mules were approached by two Central California SPCA (CCSPCA) animal control officers where we had stopped to rest for the night. The following is an honest accounting of our interaction of that encounter.
The Monk was sitting on his water bucket eating breakfast (canned green beans, half can peas, half can butter beans, two handfuls oatmeal, black pepper, small amount of vinegar with a generous amount of V8 juice to enhance flavor and texture) when suddenly startled by a roaming citizen, who apparently broke loose from his automobile parked about 50-100 yards away on the shoulder of the road.
The roaming citizen asked the Monk, “Do these horses belong to you?”
“Yes,” replied the Monk. ” Those horses picketed on the fence belong to me.” The Monk then stated, “We were getting ready to leave and won’t be here long.”
The gentleman replied, “Have a nice day” then walking thru the tall dry grass, returned to his automobile.
About 30 minutes later while packing up, the Monk caught some motion out of the corner of his eye. It was two uniformed officers belonging to an agency of some kind making their way thru the tall grass towards the mules. The Mules ordered them to come no closer. They stopped short about 50 feet from us.
The animal control officer said they were responding to a complaint of loose horses. Little Girl and Little Ethel were secured to the fence line via 30 feet of rope per animal and were not loose. At that point, the animal control officers should have left, however, they did not. Instead, the officer asked the Monk for identification. The Monk refused the request.
The officer asked, “Where did you get the horses? Can you prove they belong to you?”
The monk replied, “Possession is 9/10ths of the law. Prove they don’t belong to us.”
The officer asked, “What are they eating? Where is their food?”
Monk replied, “You’re standing on it. Knee high grass.”
The officer then asked, “Where is their water?”
“In a canal half mile down the road,” Monk replied.
The officer said, “The horses must have water. We will haul your mules away.”
The Monk responded, “Don’t try it.”
The officer got on his phone for about 10 minutes. While the officers were talking on the phone, the Mules hollered back at them to take a look at 3Mules.com website that is plastered on the side of the pack boxes and 3 Mules Facebook page. Then, the officers apparently did take a look at the website and shortly thereafter turned and went back to their truck and left.
Last Spring, when the Mules were making their way through Palm Springs, a comment was made on one of our posts that the Mules were making bad choices. “Bad choices” is social worker speak for alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.
In none of these activities or addictions do the Mules engage. Instead, we practice the sacred act of walking and the spiritual engagement with creation the Natural World. This is not a bad choice. It is a wonderful choice. A choice created and made available to all from a Trump down to a weak little man and everybody somewhere in between.
This is why it is so important that the right to travel on and across this country using a multi-use public thoroughfare, open to all its citizens, be protected by all with extreme vigilance.
Excerpts from Sierra Sun article:
Outdoor activity is often associated with physical well-being.
Being in the natural world also plays a vital role in mental health, according to Dr. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco and a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research for nearly five decades.
When people are engaged in activities like hiking, Merzenich says, the brain is getting its own exercise, constantly assessing and reassessing the environment for everything from threats to making minute adjustments along an uneven hiking trail.
In the natural world, Merzenich said novel things and surprises trigger this super-charged state, but as people have built cities and more recently, turned their attention to digital devices, they are no longer getting the benefits of being engaged with their environment.
“Our brain is deprived a massive level of exercise by living in an artificial world. We’ve adjusted our local environment so that everything is predictable, we don’t have to think about anything,” said Merzenich.
“Common city life, you only see things in front of your nose and you no longer see things out in the world … you became very, very inadequate at detecting anything that’s surprising or novel. That’s really what we’re designed to do. That’s what our brains are designed to do, we’re designed to be masters of our physical environment, to be looking for the surprises in it that don’t fit, to be evaluating what they mean and what their value is to us. The natural world is just about the best possible way to find all of those surprises.”
With the emergence of mobile devices, Merzenich said the effects are worsening, especially for children.
“There’s no question that the brain of the average little kid right now is vastly different from the brain of a kid even 20 years ago, because the brain basically is plastic, and it changes itself as a function of how it’s engaged,” said Merzenich. “What the child is engaging in is a lot of rule-based behavior, working in activities that are largely rule-based. The kid is doing things that they enjoy and are not valueless, but they’re not the real world, and increasingly we take a sort of artificial approach to life. We don’t problem solve so much as we look up answers to things. We’re changing the way our brains are exercised and that’s changing us.” By being deprived of the unpredictability and novelty of natural settings, according to Merzenich, people begin to suffer from disorders such as depression and anxiety.
“Human survival was dependent on being an accurate, fast interpreter of the meanings of things,” he said. “Another way of putting that is, that it’s an important form of exercise. If I degrade that machinery, I go into clinical depression. If I enliven that machinery, I have a life that’s vital and bright. There’s real value in exercising the brain.”
In order to employ this mental form of exercise, Merzenich’s advice is simply to get outside and be engaged in one’s surroundings, whether it is at a park, on a hiking path or at the beach.
“I tell people try to be a little bit more like a child again,” he said.
“There’s nothing quite so wonderful as being out on a forest path or being some place where everywhere you look there’s something really interesting — if you’re just open to it.”
We recently received the following update on our former mule Frank E. Boy: “Frank is an employee for Kern County Fire Department now. He’s going to be one of the mules for packing in fire supplies during fire season.”
Safe wishes to Frank and the wildland firefighters.