Most of us are dismissed from work and free of familiar obligations. We are alone with ourselves. My place of work, a restaurant, has shuttered, and I’m aimless without it. I don’t think I’ll ever miss waiting tables, but I miss how the job structured my life. Also now without the gym, I’m often unsatisfied by the free time I once craved while I was clocked in. While I’ve fished during four of the past five days, I also sit around my apartment anxious and unpresent. I visit the same web pages over and over to read the onslaught of BREAKING news that only seems to worsen. I’ve even started to read most of the messages of a group-text between my immediate family. In need of something to get me going, I’m going to write more than usual over the course of the coming weeks. The discipline will provide direction; the posts will bring satisfaction.
I’m humbled by the little attention I afforded the virus until recently. We very well may find out what it’s like to lose upwards of a million people in our country alone. This is extraordinary. It should flutter your stomach the first time you attempt to comprehend it. So, it isn’t something I’m taking lightly anymore, and it’s really important to follow one simple direction: Avoid other people. Right now, you may want to help, but all you can do is isolate yourself. It’s a strange phenomenon: There’s nothing to do but nothing.
My thing I’ve talked about but haven’t acted on? Over the past year-and-a-half, I’ve said I am going to resurrect my blog. Talk isn’t enough, though, and from my experience, it actually lowers the odds for any results. However, I hope this announcement will pan out differently. That it’s for the sake of my sanity amid social isolation definitely increases the odds.
What to write about? What I always write about: Being outside. Fly-fishing, hiking, and exploring. Compared to the trails and beaches of my hometown of Santa Cruz, California, where you’re bound to run into folks you know, let alone those you don’t, the mountains and rivers of Missoula, Montana are relatively empty. There’s plenty of open space to isolate oneself in. This place feels more and more like home the more I explore it. I’m not a native of Missoula in a casual sense. I wasn’t born here. What’s more, I’m the dreaded Californian transplant. While some don’t hesitate to call me the worst, I have plenty of hope and reason to feel like a native. I’ve been reading local writer David James Duncan’s book The River Why, which speaks to how:
“A native is a man or creature or plant indigenous to a limited geographical area—a space boundaried by and defined by mountains, rivers, or coastline (not by latitudes, longitudes, or state and county lines), with its own peculiar mixture of weeds, trees, bugs, birds, flowers, streams, hills, rocks, and critters (including people), its own nuances of rain, wind, and seasonal change. Native intelligence develops through an unspoken or soft-spoken relationship with these interwoven things: it evolves as the native involves himself in the region. A non-native awakes in the morning in a body in a bed in a room in a building on a street in a country in a state in a nation. A native awakes in the center of a little cosmos—or a big one, if his intelligence is vast—and he wears this cosmos like a robe, senses the barely perceptible shiftings, migrations, moods, and machinations of its creatures, its growing green things, its earth and sky.” (72)
Having worked summers in Glacier National Park and in the Gallatin Canyon, I’ve been fortunate to experience the natural wonders of Western Montana. However, I’m afraid my “intelligence” of the natural machinery of Missoula is too low. I’m outside plenty, but I have a ways to go before I can gauge the nuances of its area with native-like precision.
I never gained a true sense of self until I arrived in Missoula alone. A half-decade has elapsed, and I still want it to feel even more like home. My sense of Missoula, that which “evolves as the native involves himself in the region,” can only be defined by the mountains and rivers that shape its being as well as my own. Throughout the process, I will document some of my experiences, observations, and random thoughts for you to read. My two-folded passion for writing and being outside can keep me busy amid this increasingly strange and unfortunate time. I better start taking advantage.