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The trick is to desire needs, not just wants

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The trick is  to desire needs,  not just wants

The best hunting mountain on the island does wonders for the "nostalgic funk."

Photo by JEFF LUND/

POSTED August 18, 2010 1:40 a.m.
Plenty of people have inquired as to how I am maintaining buoyancy after returning from Alaska, to which I have responded something to the effect of, “I am okay with it.”

I don’t have too much of a choice, this is where the job is, so allowing myself to get legitimately depressed because I am done fishing on my home rivers and hiking the muddy trails of my youth would be impractical.

I will admit hearing Josh talking about bagging his third buck of the season makes me think, but not consider calling in sick.

I do work myself into a nostalgic funk now and then, remembering the rhythmic strokes of a paddle in a river that’s just as excited about the weather as I am.

It’s dead-calm by industry standards, but blaring with nature. Trout nipping flies from the surface every few seconds, salmon scooting by like torpedoes, wind forced through the massive wings of bald eagles that always seem like they are in a bad mood. I want to tell them to lighten up, but they always seem to scowl, as if the contract for being the national symbol requires them to be obscenely majestic and royal. Otters are free of such an obligation and have fun for both, turning on their backs to watch fishermen and obnoxiously chewing their food, whiskers twitching under dark, friendly eyes.

Those are good memories. I sit with them and a mug of coffee on Saturday mornings.

There was probably a time that I would return from the 49th state and wonder what I am doing in Manteca, which is an almond to Klawock’s salmonberry when compared.

But after some of the hot dog brunches over a campfire at the Thorne River, I was reminded that I get to see Alaska exclusively in bloom. The salmon are in, the berries juicy and the gaps of winter filled with leaves and flowers so intensely that 500-pound bears can conceal themselves.

Plus, life isn’t all about what I want. If I wanted to be in Alaska, I could be.

I could find a job, move there, then wait until another place presented itself as the perfect location, providing another segment in the never-ending search for locational satisfaction. That is, if I really thought a location on the globe was the key to authentic happiness.

The best part of my summer other than fishing with mom was watching my buddies react to their firsts. The old spruce tree with bald eagles as ornaments, the euphoric “I got one!” and subsequent realization that salmon don’t die from simply being hooked, the intensity of wild nature that can almost be claustrophobic when there is only a small game trail and pink trail tape to chart the path to the river.

It’s all new for me when I show a friend, because meals of fresh crab on a deck overlooking the ocean can lose its power, after the fourth or fifth time, though just slightly.

If I lived where I visited, I would be around people that lived it all too, meaning that newness wouldn’t be renewed. It might be a community that is happier and more content on the whole, but if I can’t find at least a good portion of happiness where I am, I won’t find it somewhere else. I am depending on an ultimately flawed system that gave rise to such phrases as “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

That’s what happens when we look for the wrong things I guess, when we focus on things that just have to do with wants rather than needs.

I have what I need here, and I get all I could want for one-sixth of the year.

That’s way more than just, “okay.”

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail
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