For nearly two decades as an outdoor writer for the Bangor Daily News, I have traveled thousands of miles and written hundreds of columns and stories about wild places, wild animals and wild adventures – the mine and those appreciated by others.
Since I gave up this job in May so I could go back to school (who saw that coming?).
I no longer have a ready-made excuse to explain my frequent forays into the woods.
It might not seem like much to you, but as someone who has always known (or, do that “almost always knew “) that if I wanted to spend a day hunting birds, or looking for deer, or stand in a river with a fly rod in hand, or talk to a moose, all I had to do was tell my boss that I was heading in search of something to write.
Most of the time, with most of my bosses, it was as much of an explanation as it took. They were smiling, maybe telling me that they would have liked to have my job and let me go on my way. And then, if the gods of the column wanted it, that day’s adventure would end on a printed page a few days later.
It was, as I have often said, a pretty good concert.
And while I liked the changes that my new priorities brought to my life, I also began to recognize the realities that most of my hunter and angler friends experienced as I happily hunted and fished while there. ‘calling “work.”
It’s just not that easy to get out in the woods or on the water anymore.
My professors at the University of Maine I’m sure (although I didn’t have the courage to ask) would probably be less than impressed if I emailed them and said, âHey! There is fresh snow on the ground so you won’t see me in class today. I’ll let you know if I’m taking a lot of money, just in case you want to come and help me get it out of the woods.
Or, “There’s been a great hatching night on the river lately, so I plan to spend Wednesday fly fishing on the West Branch.” I’ll catch up with you and my classmates in the evening class next week.
No, none of these excuses seem to work any longer. Sadly, it looks like I had to grow up and stop going to the woods to play.
Or, at least, I’ve lost most of my spontaneity, and now I have to plan ahead, realizing that the only days that work are the ones when I don’t have classes, or homework to write, or projects that are due, or observations at school to be made to become a teacher. Oh: And those days when I have family commitments, or when I’m trying to make some extra cash at one of the many part-time jobs, that won’t work either.
So what has my newfound loss of freedom (is it even a thing?) Done to my recreational life? Well, I haven’t done a lot of fly fishing in the spring and summer. But I spent a lot of time teaching young athletes how to do the high jump. And I only spent one day all fall trying to find a grouse or two to kill. But I’ve learned to be a productive member of a team that sometimes meets in high school and college. And I spent a lot less time trying to find a deer than in previous years, and I had the same results that I always have: no deer for me. But I produced a 75 page fiction project for one class, a 12 page article on Gothic novels for another, and a 65 page personal portfolio for an education class.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, âNo. I haven’t spent a lot of time outdoors this year.
The good thing, I guess, was I was too busy to notice.