It’s better to be outside. You don’t live in Alaska to wear out recliners. Well, at least you shouldn’t. But I feel like complaining about being in quarantine though I’m healthy, is making it about me which seems pretty greasy.
Just because I haven’t left home since I arrived back in Ketchikan from a trip to California, doesn’t mean I’m suffering. It’s quiet, but an inconvenience at the most. There is no suffering. I have a buddy who is shopping for me which has cut into my chips and guacamole obsession that I wasn’t fully aware of until being deprived of the opportunity to impulse buy. Those items, among others, never made my shopping list but seemed to always make it home to the fridge.
Anyway, while information is power, it is also manipulative. The first few days back home I found myself ping-ponging back between recovery and economic ruin, it’s just a really bad flu and it’s going to kill us all. It’s not that I went looking for it, it’s that all trails lead there.
It doesn’t matter how many people are filling Facebook with scenic photos or hunting and fishing memories, because there are more people willing to spread legitimate journalism and unsubstantiated, politically charged nonsense.
What I thought I needed was a good long hike.
Which I probably did, but with the definition of quarantine being what it is, I decided against it. I could explain that taking my mobile quarantine mobile to the lake didn’t constitute inviting contact with people, but it didn’t exactly follow the rules of sheltering in place since I had been in the Lower 48.
What I needed was time unplugged at home. Time away from reading about how the pandemic has changed things, how it will change things and everyone having an opinion about whose fault it is. I usually get this when I am out on a hike or fishing or camping, but I realized I needed to reprogram my home because that’s where I spend most of my time now. An afternoon of no-signal is great, but if I spend the rest of the week at home obsessing over hot spots and curves and growth and death, I’ve created a sanctuary of stress. Deprived of the opportunity to unplug, I am at the mercy of my inability to separate myself from the connected world that would connect me with madness. Just because I am on Zoom with my teaching colleagues and students and answering emails, and grading makeup work, doesn’t mean I should then open a new tab and see how much has changed when I’m done.
So, I took Saturday off. I read about fly fishing, thought about the epic dry fly hatch on the Yuba River the week before and my girlfriend catching some of the biggest trout of her life. Of course, that led me to thoughts about how happy I was to get out of California and the exponential rise of chaos since I returned, but you can acknowledge the severity of something, without pushing panic.
I ordered fly tying materials from the shop in Juneau and have been creating some new stuff for steelhead and trout. It might not work on the fish in the water, but it sure did work for me at home. It’s tough, but I’ve been trying to turn my place from an area of consumption to a place of production.
Tie rather than scroll. Read paper, not screens.
• 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.