The most interesting –ism to me currently is essentialism.
Finding the essential in a world of —isms 120617 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly The most interesting –ism to me currently is essentialism.

The essential part of catching this steelhead had nothing to do with the jacket, waders or fly rod. So why do I think about gear so much? Photo by Jeff Lund.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Story last updated at 12/5/2017 - 7:29 pm

Finding the essential in a world of —isms

The most interesting –ism to me currently is essentialism.

As is the case with all –isms and –ists, there are general principles that play out, or are articulated, differently.

James Latham wrote there is a “finite and definite amount of effort” we can put forth. So, we can take on a lot of things, and do them okay, or we can specialize and potentially excel. But it’s not just about areas of specialization, it’s about reducing the clutter, the nonsense, the waste so that we can better attack the things we actually want.

By the way, it’s a lot more fun to refer to “decluttering” or “getting my life together” as “practicing essentialism” or being an “essentialist.” I’m not, but I like the idea.

What is essential to my existence? What can I remove so that I can live with greater efficiency and optimize my experience?

On a flight from Klawock after Thanksgiving, a guy had on a jacket that was the same brand as my newest hunting gear, but his was thicker, so of course it was better.

Madness! I already have three hunting jackets, all waterproof, all of varying thickness for different temperatures. I already have three systems that work, who cares if two are simple traditional camo patterns and aren’t Sitka or Kuiu brands.

When the flight landed and I got home, I started thinking about removing. How much of my stuff is the wrong stuff? I wasn’t thinking of outdated things that require replacement, but rather, how much of my stuff is non-essential?

To the left of my couch are five fly rods. All totally necessary. Moving on…

Books. I have a library of read books that are taking up space by the couch. I bought these books or borrowed them when I was in California and they came with me to Alaska. If a book isn’t opened, it’s just stuff, but parting with books feels wrong. Some of them are valuable, some I have read multiple times. But do I like having books around me so that I feel more intellectual than I am? Am I justifying clutter? Should I instead donate some of these fishing books to those who have not yet been exposed to the words of Chatham, Gierach, Harrison or McGuane? Every object offers similar questions, Why is that here? What purpose does that have? Would I miss it?

There’s stuff, but there’s also what I spend my time on.

I find this essential in Alaska because there’s so much to do, but to do everything is to be overwhelmed. Plus, thanks to weather, waste sneaks in to the routine. It’s easy to hike up a mountain when the weather is good and the roads good enough to get to a trailhead.

I bought a skiff a few years ago and use it quite a bit to get to spring steelhead water and in the summer to troll, but for some reason I just don’t make the time in winter. No, that’s not right. The time is there. It doesn’t have to be made. I just don’t use the time efficiently. All of a sudden, the 40-second drive from my place to the boat launch is too much. Sure, it’s not as pleasant to take wind in the face when it’s 29 degrees out, but I signed up for Alaska. Warm living rooms happen anywhere. What I could see, do and fish for doesn’t happen anywhere.

Being a basketball coach is my excuse, but there is no basketball on Sunday, and Sunday still has 24 hours. Maybe if I got that jacket, I would be more likely to get out on my skiff… wait, no, that’s consumerism. Wrong –ism.

Jeff Lund writes and teaches in Ketchikan.