True gratitude is being able to look at a fishless afternoon and be content. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

True gratitude is being able to look at a fishless afternoon and be content. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went to the Woods: Feeling gratitude, even for wet socks

Maybe it’s my duty as a human to enjoy doing simple things that many take for granted.

By Jeff Lund

I’ve been off Twitter for months which has been great. I’ve never really been one to pop off without thinking, but on occasion I weigh in, though I am more likely to delete what I thumb punched just as often as I’d post.

I just never can seem to get the right words and by the time I think I have the thought pegged, something comes to mind that unravels my insight, I get exhausted, or think, “You weren’t there, you don’t know, so who cares what you think?”

But I can’t get the image of those people crowding a plane evacuating Afghanistan out of my mind. With all of the misery brought to my attention by organizations and individuals vying for my engagement, I was a little shocked I couldn’t shake that scene and figured I’d see if writing about it would help.

I thought about it on my last hike, my last hunt and the last fishing trip with my wife. Not for too long, but for long enough maybe to be cognizant of the fact that maybe it is my duty as a human to enjoy the opportunity to do simple things like recreate that many take for granted. I suppose I should clarify here and say, happily recreate because it does seem that recreational anger is a thing. I am not completely convinced people want to have things their way because that would deprive them of the ability to feel the pulse of what they believe is righteous anger and therefore feel purpose. But if your chosen political party loses an election, that leads to “told you so” posts or empty threats about leaving the country. That doesn’t compel you to hang from the side of an aircraft.

Gratitude is a funny thing because as soon as you show a willingness to express it, someone undoubtedly is there to question it. “Don’t you care?” “How can you be happy when…” “Well, of course you’d say that, because…” It’s usually someone who doesn’t know you or listens with a mouth, which is rarely effective.

But gratitude is powerful. To be able to express that I am so incredibly thankful for my ancestors who made things better each generation since arriving in the United States, enables me to find more gratitude and better yet, share it.

My buddy Matt said that he wants to do as much good as he can, knowing that putting it out in the universe will create a wake that might reach back to he and his family. You don’t create positive wakes if you are busy being angry or mining social media and the news for misery.

There is no doubt that evil exists and we can’t seem to find a way to legislate, vote, or otherwise expel it from this world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy our opportunities and experience joy and share it with others. If there was no joy and opportunity in the United States, why would anyone want to come here?

If anything, the realities of the world should make a fogged-in hunt, fishless afternoon or wet socks seem inconsequential to the point of laughter.

Appreciating the freedom to act and think such a way are the exact reasons people want to come to this country and better their situation generation after generation.

I doubt I will leave behind the images of those people and that plane anytime soon nor will I ever forget the memories of 9/11 and the 20 years in between.

But I am grateful for people who have lived in impactful ways that have taught me the importance of gratitude both to experience and share.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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