Many who are living through the pandemic in relative comfort feel guilty about their gripes over the crisis. The big one for me was Clare being called home from her New Zealand study abroad program. She was crushed, having had the best experience in her life pulled out from under her. The sadness was deep and genuine. I, of course, felt as bad as she did. Still, through all of the pain was the realization that having a study abroad experience was from a position of privilege, and others have it much worse.

After several weeks back in boring Wisconsin, Clare is coming out of her funk. This gives me the opportunity to find new things to whine about. My latest is all of the people descending on natural areas. Under normal conditions, my favorite parks and trails are not busy on weekdays. So long as I avoided these places on weekends, I had them largely to myself. During the pandemic, natural areas open to the public are popular every day of the week. 

 This relegates me to the one place that remains quiet – the water. Last week I put my kayak in at Goose Island, a county park just south of town. I am sure I’ve never seen a non-holiday weekday more crowded.  All of the popular places to fish from shore were lined with anglers, people foregoing social distancing for a chance to cast into some of the better holes. 

I, on the other hand, went into the shallows and put my kayak in the water. After only a hundred yards of paddling, I was away from everyone. Almost immediately I scared a beaver that, at least temporarily, abandoned the fresh branch it was hauling and disappeared beneath the surface. Within the first hour, I saw herons, pelicans, and eagles, which are common there, and a sandhill crane, which is not. I saw only three other boats, all from at least fifty yards away. One was a solo fisherman anchored near shore, and the other two were men slowly trolling the backwaters for large-mouthed bass and northerns. 

Unlike the previous week, when I flipped my canoe and put myself in the river, I barely got my feet wet entering and exiting my kayak. It was a good day.

Steven Simpson