Like the rest of you, I’m not allowed to spend much time visiting others nowadays. Social-distancing rules say that I’m supposed to stay six feet away from everybody else, and as this pandemic gathers steam, I’ve even found myself guiltily holding my breath when I’ve passed someone in the aisles of my local grocery store.
For a guy who makes his living meeting up with total strangers, listening to their stories, and sharing those tales with thousands of BDN readers, this has been an odd time, to be sure.
An admission that won’t come as much of a surprise — I can already hear my wife saying, “C’mon … you don’t think people already knew that?” — I’m a bit of an extrovert.
OK. More than “a bit.”
Truth be told, I thrive on those days full of random personal interactions, which are, for the foreseeable future, a thing of the past. I’ve always looked forward to the next random meeting, the next group of people I’d meet on an adventure into the woods or the next hunting or fishing trip with my close-knit group of pals.
There are some who view outdoors activities as an excuse to get away from something. For me, it’s always been something else entirely. They’ve been a way to share special times and special places with others.
I am not the serious, rugged loner you read about in outdoor-based literature — that guy who never quite feels alive unless he’s 100 miles away from the nearest person, and who is at his best when he has to match his wits with Mother Nature and fend for himself.
Instead, I’m the guy who believes that every hunting and fishing adventure is the perfect excuse to hold a reunion, and the more friends who are able to attend, the more fun everyone will have.
We might spend the day hunting alone, or fish different pools where we have some quiet time, but my favorite trips all end with laughs and stories around the dinner table, as we begin the process of turning “experiences” into “memories” by sharing them with others.
Over the years, I’ve shared all kinds of adventures with the same group of guys. Sometimes, we’ve retreated to the wilds of Quebec, where we’ve fished for brook trout in a shuttered mining town. I almost fell off a cliff into a raging river on one of those trips, and later broke my fly rod. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Other times, we’ve headed to camps on Cassidy Deadwater or at Caucomgomoc Lake and spent glorious weeks trying to find a moose to fill our tags.
And yet other times, we’ve chased birds and tried our hand as moose photographers while spending time at a special spot on Brassua Lake.
Believe me when I tell you this: While each of us loves a bit of peace and quiet, and all of us love to get a chance to fish a piece of water that nobody else has fished for days, or weeks, none of us would change any of those experiences. Each of those adventures became even more special because we had good friends to share them with.
The other day, on the group text channel that we use to plan such trips, one of my pals pointed out that it had been too long since we’d had the chance to spend time outdoors. He suggested a spring fishing trip might be just what we needed to shake off the malaise that has afflicted us all during this difficult time.
For me — the extrovert — the suggestion sounded perfect … for about a second.
Then I snapped back to reality, and pointed out that none of us know when we’ll be allowed to gather in a group again. I’m not a scientist, nor a doctor, you see. I’m willing to trust those who are, and I’m taking social distancing guidelines seriously. And though it’s not a pleasant scenario, I’m increasingly expecting to spend a lot of time on my own in the months ahead, if the experts tell me that it’s necessary.
“It might not happen until summer,” I texted.
Or, I realize as I watch the news continue to change and the crisis continue to heighten, it might not happen until after that.
Here’s hoping all my fishing and hunting buddies will be healthy and safe until then, for yet another trip we’ll all remember forever.
And here’s hoping your friends are healthy and safe, too.
Be well. The fish will wait.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.