Labels and group identities are complex. Just because the author is conflicted about Prop 1, doesn’t mean he doesn’t Stand for Salmon. (Courtesy Photo | Jeff Lund)

Labels and group identities are complex. Just because the author is conflicted about Prop 1, doesn’t mean he doesn’t Stand for Salmon. (Courtesy Photo | Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Longing to belong

I sat under the cover of a massive cedar tree on top of a steep hill hidden from Google Earth satellites, hoping a deer will walk within bow range.

After five days of exploring “Walden” with my Adventure Literature classes, it was no surprise that Thoreau’s words blew in on me after half an hour of seeing nothing but squirrels.

Transcendentalism is often oversimplified to where it’s about being a nonconformist and heading into the woods — which people like Chris McCandless did and, maybe thanks to the tone of the book “Into the Wild,” achieved almost hero status among ideological teenagers and young adults dissatisfied with the prospect of, or actual adulthood. The great irony, both of my classes decided, was how dependent (through hitchhiking, friendliness and kindness) McCandless was on the society he decided to leave, once he left it. A nonconformist who abandoned his vehicle will need a conformist if he wants to get around.

Anyway, there is value in thinking and discussing -ists, -isms, and political affiliations, but I wonder if we spend too much time trying to subscribe to one so we can tell other people or because it makes it easier come voting time. You know, rather than practicing a version of something that makes us feel optimized, we are preoccupied with something that makes us sound enlightened. It begs the question, why spend so much energy trying to impress people who just really don’t care and even if they did, it wouldn’t matter?

Is it more important for me to feel like a good man who hunts or look like a good hunter?

The hunting and angling worlds are rank with posturing — worth is calculated by points, pounds, inches, etc. It’s filled with honest people who ethically and dutifully go to the woods and take responsibility for the acquisition of meat, but also unfriendly types who feel they are without flaw or have nothing more to learn.

Like it or not, hunters carry the same title, and nuance isn’t always considered, especially in the areas of the country in which all hunting is deemed socially unacceptable and all hunters are bloodthirsty psychopaths. Should I care about what they think? Yeah, some of them. I should care about what other people think of me. The right people.

It doesn’t matter if I think I am an honest or trustworthy person, what matters is whether or not how I act and what I do makes me that in the eyes of others. If nobody thinks I am trustworthy or reasonable, then it doesn’t matter what I think.

Lifestyle expert and Podcaster Jay Ferruggia says, “That doesn’t mean I let someone’s opinion of me dictate what I do or do not do. That would be weak. It means that I do my best to uphold the time-tested virtues of masculinity — strength, courage, honor and mastery.”

If the word “masculinity” set off an alarm, then you’ve missed the point.

A student asked me if I was a Transcendentalist. I said no. That it would take too much time to figure out exactly what that meant, how it could maybe be applied in this contemporary context, and all for what? So, I could label myself, tell people, then eventually fall short of the philosophical or political standards?

Next week we can Stand for Salmon or Stand for Alaska, but apparently not both, and there are people likely waiting to question whether or not you’re really on the team, whether you really qualify as a (fill in the blank) depending on your vote.

You can save yourself some reading, vote “No” like a good anti-regulation disciple, or cash your Permanent Fund check, then vote “Yes” because “No” is funded by Big Oil … ignoring the irony.

Or you can forget groupthink, come to a better why and know it was right.


• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

Steve Lewis, foreground, and Stephen Sorensen from the Alaska State Review Board scan ballots from precincts where they were hand counted at the Division of Elections office Nov. 15. Board officials spent the period between the Nov. 8 election and its certification Wednesday performing about 20 different to verify the results. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Election certified, but challenges pending

Outcome of at least two state House races unknown, which may determine chamber’s leadership

Errol Culbreth and Scotlyn Beck (Polichinelles) rehearse ahead of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The immensely popular ballet is coming to the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Friday through Sunday. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau Dance Theatre is ready to get cracking

“The Nutcracker” is set to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In this photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB investigator Clint Crookshanks, left, and member Jennifer Homendy stand near the site of some of the wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, that was involved in a midair collision near Ketchikan. The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration should tighten rules about minimum visibility during flights and require more weather training for pilots who fly around Ketchikan.  (Peter Knudson/NTSB via AP)
Safety board recommends new measures for Alaska air tours

The board wants regulations for Ketchikan similar to requirements in Hawaii and the Grand Canyon.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, Nov.30

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Harbor seals have a face full of whiskers, which the seals use to follow hydrodynamic wakes left by prey fish; even a blind seal can track a fish this way, discriminating victims by size and shape and direction of movement.  (Courtesy Photo / Jos Bakker)
On the Trails: The sense of touch

Touch is a mechanical sense, detecting physical stimuli such as pressure, texture,… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 29

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Sugar Bear Alaskan Treasures, seen here, was one of many artist vendors featured at the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Indigenous Artists & Vendors Holiday Market from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday through Sunday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Indigenous Holiday Market features local artists

Market’s first return since 2018.

Most Read