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Stuck in a puddle


May 28, 2020

By Brandon Nam

As the snowpack continues to melt in the warmth of the late-spring sun, discarded leaves and wriggling mayfly nymphs are sent roaring downstream at the mercy of the torrential river current. Opportunistic cutthroat trout take shelter in the boughs of a submerged red cedar tree and methodically pick through the debris as it drifts by. Amidst the foliage of salmonberry bushes and western hemlock trees, a grizzly bear pokes its head out to greet me. Everything is as it should be, as expected, as nature intended. But suddenly, the rush of water stops as if a dam had appeared out of nowhere. Only a trickle remains. A slow drip into the puddle, sending ripples through its existence.

With my undergraduate degree complete, the roaring rush of class assignments, exams, and papers is a thing of the past. No more lecture attendance. No more standing-room-only bus rides. No more school. But things didn’t end on my terms.

Like a dam blocking a river, COVID-19 has temporarily brought 

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my upstream trajectory to a screeching halt and sent ripples through society. Convocation ceremony and birthday party—cancelled. A log falls. Hiking trails and parks—closed. Another bough crashes down and falls into place. Fishing trips—put on hold. The sticks, logs, and trees continue to pile high. Summer employment—uncertain at best. By now, the flow has slowed to a trickle. Out of my element with no sense of control, I feel like a fish out of water. All that remains is the dribble of “remote lab work” to prove to myself that I’m productive. One scale photo. Drip. Another. Drip, drip. Stuck in a puddle with nowhere to go, time crawls slower than the flow of impounded water as I patiently wait for life to return to normal.


But with time, comes opportunity. Opportunity to rekindle interests in old hobbies that I didn’t have time for. Opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty that we often take for granted. Opportunity to live vicariously through the lens of the camera and reminisce about life before the lockdown.


Scrolling through my camera roll from the comfort of my couch, I get lost in the wilderness that I so desperately crave. Hungry grizzly bears wandering the riverbank in search of their next meal. Lush, dense Douglas fir forests, with squirrels and chickadees chirping from above. Pristine, crystal-clear pools and riffles teeming with wild coho salmon and bull trout. Following the trickle of water downstream, I escape from the stagnant monotony of my mental puddle. Breaking through the water’s surface into the depths below, my vision is partly obscured by the turbidity of the water - the only way to know what’s on the other side is to go with the flow.

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