Lewis Hyde on why he still walks with his butterfly net even though he doesn’t collect butterflies anymore:
I carry it in part to catch and release the few things I can’t identify on the wing but mostly because of the way it changes the way I walk. I don’t know if the same is true for birders with their binoculars or deer hunters with their rifles, but for me, walking with the butterfly net alters my perceptions. It produces a state of mind, a kind of undifferentiated awareness otherwise difficult to attain. It is a puzzle to me why this is the case, why, that is, I can’t simply learn from walking with the net and then put it away and transfer what I know to walking without it.
Perhaps it has to do with the way the net declares my intention, which is to apprehend what is in front of me. Walking with the net is like reading with a pencil in hand. The pencil means you want to catch the sense of what you are reading. You intend to underline, put check marks and exclamation points in the margin and make the book your own….
As with the pencil, so with the net: Both declare the possibility of action, and that possibility changes the person holding the tool.
I love this connection between walking with a net and reading with a pencil. (I have noticed that if I walk with a notebook in my little hip pouch, I’m more likely to get ideas.)