“I have a room all to myself; it is Nature.” —Henry Thoreau
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” —Walt Whitman
I finished filling the last fish feeder and climbed into the side-by-side to head back out to meet up with my friends. We were gathering for an afternoon of bass fishing. The beauty of fall foliage across the lake caught my attention as I was driving out, and I stopped to take a few photos.
As I stood alone in the silence staring at the magnificent beauty of the sky, the trees and the lake, I was struck by the dichotomy of the two experiences — solitude in nature and togetherness in nature. I pondered the two experiences as I made my way around the lake and drove back to the camp.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, I had not spent time with my friends since turkey season earlier this spring, and I had been looking forward to the fishing trip since we had planned it a few weeks earlier. However, standing there alone in quiet solitude felt wonderful as well and, with deer season upon us, I realized just how important “alone time” is for me.
The truth is we need both, and the isolation we have experienced as a result of the virus has proven that to me. I need that time with friends just as much as I need the quiet moments alone in a blind looking out over a food plot. Well, maybe not in exactly equal parts as my leanings are more toward “off the grid hermit” than “social butterfly.”
We were meeting up “somewhere in Clarke County,” to use the words of a wise local outdoorsman, and I couldn’t wait to be together with my friends Greg Monsour and Jamie Thomas. I had arrived early and volunteered to fill the fish feeders while Greg helped with a camp road repair project. We had just finished both projects when Jamie arrived, so we grabbed a quick lunch at the Clarkdale Superette before hitting the water.
I talk to both friends almost daily; however, there is no substitute for time together while in the outdoors. Jamie filled us in on the events of homecoming at Caledonia High, where his step-daughter Hallie Kate had been crowned homecoming queen the night before, as we pushed the boat off and headed out for the afternoon.
We basked in the sun of a perfect fall day as Greg eased us into a cove sheltered from the wind on the back of the lake while updating us on his daughter Anniston’s stellar soccer season.
While I listened to Greg, I noticed a small wake just off the point we were fishing and launched a crawfish colored crank bait in that direction. I reeled the lure slowly away from the point and had almost made it back to the boat when a nice bass slammed it. The battle was intense but short-lived as Jamie netted the bass for me, Greg grabbed the scales to weigh the fish and we celebrated the start of what would be a wonderful afternoon on the water.
We fished a variety of lures throughout the day, ranging from crankbaits and senkos to various crawfish-mimicking plastics and topwater plugs, and the bite would have to be classified as slow based upon our prior outings on the lake. However, the fellowship more than made up for the lulls between fish.
Back at the camp, we broke bread and enjoyed a slice of the wonderful chocolate chip poundcake my wife had sent as we warmed ourselves from the chill of the crisp evening air with a glass of small batch bourbon and caught up on more life events.
It was just what each of us needed. The camaraderie, the reliving of hunting and fishing trips of the past and the planning of future outings was the tonic we required to fill the void of fellowship that had been missing as of late.
Driving home alone Sunday, I was reminded again of my thoughts the day before on solitude and togetherness. I am blessed beyond compare by the friendships and family that I have and also by a love for solitude that takes me to the woods alone from time to time to contemplate, to write and to commune in that quiet time with the Creator.
As I said earlier, we need both. We need the sentiment of Thoreau as well as Whitman. I’ll leave you alone to contemplate that for now and, until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.