Last month’s off-topic post was all about shaving, more specifically, about finding zen in shaving with a safety razor. For my August 2013 off-topic, I decided to go the exact opposite and express my love for the burly, often unkept, scraggly, and multi-colored beard growing beneath my nose.
It seems that bearding is everywhere. Celebrities like Jack Passion and the guys from Duck Dynasty have made bearding somewhat trendy. All of this seems strange to me as I can’t imagine putting much thought or effort into being trendy. I’ve found that having a beard suits me and my personality. And I find it difficult to accept that so many are growing beards because all of a sudden, it’s cool. I’ve got a quick newsflash for you. Bearding has always been “cool.” It’s just that the mainstream and those who want to fit in have just realized this.
My obsession with bearding began with Mr. James Douglas Morrison. Some of you may be familiar with his poetry but I imagine most of you know him as the frontman for The Doors. I think I was in 8th grade when I first saw photos of his beard, long hair, and somewhat oversized belly. I knew then and there that as soon as I could, I’d be growing my hair and beard (and apparently, my belly.) I spent the vast majority of my younger years with some affiliation with the military keeping me nearly clean shaven. I experimented with a mustache but looked ridiculous. My solution was to grow my chops (sideburns) as long as AR 670-1 Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia allowed. Even as a senior NCO, I kept them long and aggravated the hell out of a lot of superiors. Even so, they were always just within regulation so I didn’t dare give in to their constricting opinions.
As the world turns today, I’ve developed a yearly routine for bearding. When leaves turn dark green, just before they color the mountains and the autumn season is upon us, spring arrives for my whiskered chin. Day by day, the 5 o’clock shadow grows darker and darker until it must be some time past midnight. Areas begin to grow thicker and thicker until I’m covered in full-beard bliss.
As the mercury falls to near freezing, my beard is well into summer – fully grown, lush, and thriving. It provides me with an added warmth and comfort against those harsh winter winds. This seems to follow nature’s course perfectly as I sit shivering in a tree stand or spend days alone battling the elements of the backcountry.
Eventually, my whiskers turn to hairs so that by late winter, I’ve developed what most would consider a long beard. This is inevitably my favorite time for bearding as it goes against what most consider “normal.”
As the spring arrives and the days get warmer, the dreaded thought starts crossing my mind that perhaps I should give in and say goodbye to the birds nesting within my warm and snug beard. As yard work takes place of winter hiking, long hair and long beards make for a lot of additional insulation at a time when I’m longing for cooler weather.
And then one day it happens. Like the cold gust of wind in autumn taking the last straggling leaves from their trees, my safety razor’s cautious strokes remove the whiskers leaving me bare and exposed. Just as the summer heat compels us to grill hot dogs and find swimming holes, my beard has entered the dormancy of winter. Much like the tiny seeds and bulbs below a frosted ground, each follicle waits patiently through the razor’s brutality until their spring arrives again.
It’s the cycle of life really – only opposite.
If you’ve never allowed yourself a full beard, consider yourself sheltered from a true joy of living. If you’re a fellow bearder, I commend you and your craft. Don’t let the non-believers make you think you’re wrong for allowing nature to take it’s shape as intended. Whether you’re trendy or just another guy with a beard, wear it proudly and know that you’re following in the footsteps of Jim Morrison, Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon, Ernest Hemingway, David Gilmour (from the Animals years), Santa Claus, Jesus, and even a lowly SmoothingIt.com blogger.