Notes from the Pandemic
May 26, 2020
By Colin Bailey
The air is nearly still, nothing but the barest suggestion of a zephyr at my back. Light slow dances as it is reflected off the glassy lake surface. The skin on my hands feels thin, dry, and leathery; the right grasps the smooth cork of a fly rod while the left rolls my line between finger and thumb. An eerie croaking call haunts my vigil – it is faint, it repeats, it becomes louder and closer. The voices multiply, lending to the climbing intensity. It is that time of year again; there are pterodactyls in the sky.
It is a rare, calm day when only the fishermen and the waterfowl disturb the lake’s rest. Wrapped in the peace of this place, I ponder the pandemic. It has been a blessing and a curse, and this is reflected in my conflicted state of mind. On one hand, I am exceptionally privileged to work remotely and recover from knee surgery in the comfort of my parent’s home. I find myself reconnecting with my family and cooking meals that sometimes take 5 hours to prepare. I am privileged with the opportunity to go fly-fishing and listen to the sandhill cranes as they fly overhead.
But I rage at my impotence. I am not as productive as I once was. I cannot see my girlfriend for who knows how long because we live in different countries. Two months, three months, more than a year? But distance does not matter anymore. My grandparents live 10 minutes from home, and I cannot visit them. So, when I sit in front of my computer, I feel desperate to get work done and make use of all this time. I have work to do. Why can’t I do it? What is this restless anger?
My privilege exacerbates my sense of guilt at my lack of output. I feel like I should be staying home and wasting my time trying to be productive as a punishment for my lack of productivity. If I cannot do something useful, I should be suffering in the attempt rather than using this time to go fishing.
The croaking of the sandhill cranes begins to fade, and my bobber plunges underwater, pulling me from my reverie. A fierce sense of excitement seizes my chest as I lift the rod and set the hook. My rod bends, and keeps bending – tug, tug-tug, tug – the headshakes of a large trout. My guilt vanishes.