Voices from the river Featured

Birds, books and flies

Whiling away the coronavirus pandemic in Alaska

I had a realization the other day while wandering my neighborhood bike path with the pooch, eyes scanning trees for the flutter of wings and ears waiting for the jubilant spring song of rambling birds. 

I am unintentionally prepared for this quarantine. 

After a pleasant trip south of the border, I returned to new norms of social distancing and a more or less closed city. But I can do it — I’ve done it before.  

As recent as last winter, I have found myself in a similar reclusive and cooped up position in the wake of orthopedic surgery, which is now proving as useful acclimation to the forced and critically important reality of distance and isolation. 

To be clear, the beginning of shoulder surgery recovery was nothing short of a struggle, with much FOMO (that’s “fear of missing out”) and constant pacing. But as the days passed, I’d learned how to settle in, and well, make the most of it. However, a distinct difference between the recovery from orthopedic surgery and now, is that then, I couldn’t physically do the activities I wanted as I watched the world go by from the window comfortably poised in my recliner. Whereas currently, I am forcing myself to resist my activities and maintain my distance.  

At this point, like it or not, your world, social life, daily routine and more have been flipped upside down, potentially leaving you with extra time on your hands. The spring cleaning is done, you’ve caught up on your shows and can’t stand to see another COVID-19 post on social media … what the hell is there to do? 

At any rate, from personal experience of being stuck in a recliner for 3-month stints numerous times, here’s a piece of advice that I’m positive holds true—the trick to getting through is putting this idle time to use. 

With challenging times comes opportunity, and now is a good opportunity to add new dimensions to our lives through hobbies, skill building or starting positive habits. These admittedly take effort but can be rich in reward. 

This is your new-found free time to use, and it can easily be wasted with social media and re-runs of every sit-com ever made or dedicated to whatever it is you wish to create. What you do is up to you. Here are some ideas for you based on what I have tackled during this and prior quarantines: 

  • Set the screen aside and re-kindle your passion for reading. I became a reformed reader just last winter and I’m thankful for the content I have consumed the authors as well that poured their heart into the pages between the covers. You can never go wrong with a John Gierach book, Jim Harrison’s books are impossible to put down and every drift boat owner must read Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko. 
  • Let your window view inspire you! Discouraged that I could only identify the obvious bird species that frequent my bird feeder and yard, I took a page out of my late grandfather Walt’s book. Now I have a growing relationship with the neighborhood flocks and frequently catch myself stumbling around the yard scanning trees to spot the bird singing to me, simultaneously providing entertainment for the neighbors while satisfying a healthy curiosity. 
  • Further your expertise in a topic. Last winter while I was in a sling and couldn’t tie flies, I took an online entomology course to deepen my on-the-water knowledge.  Currently, to shake up my routine, I’ve dug up old magazines to inspire my fly tying and tackle patterns I’ve yet to conquer. 
  • Build time in your new routine for the activity or pursuit in the back of your mind that you keep putting off.  For a while now I have been wanting to dedicate a small chunk of my day to writing, and it’s finally happening. In my current routine at least, the first cup of coffee, as a savored time in my day, is dedicated to a pen and paper and I intend to make this habit stick when the real world comes back around. 

While these suggestions might not be for everyone, and I can only assume a house with young kids or many occupants has limited opportunity compared to my tranquil abode occupied by just my wife and I and our aging pups.  But for those with time on their hands and a desire for more, I hope this post gives you inspiration to make it happen. 

In this world of uncertainty, remember to stay connected with friends and family, and remember, to avoid losing yourself invest in yourself

Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for TU’s Alaska program. He lives and works in Anchorage.