Next year will be better, if we choose

I keep hearing everyone say how 2021 will be better. And it may be. The vaccines currently rolling out might send coronavirus into the history books like polio. We might get back to normal, whatever that means.

Or we might not. We might find the vaccines lose effectiveness over long periods of time. Or the virus may mutate, rendering the vaccines ineffective. We may have to continue wearing masks and social distancing for another year. Or more.

Even if everything goes as planned, those of us that are relatively healthy and not at high risk are looking at a good six months or more before we’re even offered the vaccine. We’ll be late into 2021 at a minimum before we reach “critical mass” as far as having enough people vaccinated to allow us to put the masks away and start hugging again.

Yes, 2021 may be better, but January 1 isn’t going to be much different than today.

So that leaves us to deal with our current situation. We’re isolated. We haven’t seen friends and family in what seems like ages. Many of us aren’t even getting together for Christmas. Home Alone 2020, Lost in Pandemic.

But next week brings the new year and it’s up to us to decide whether it’s going to be a better year or not. There are things we can’t control, but for the things we can, it’s time for some resolutions.

Or just one. I suggest making one resolution that supersedes all others: Spend more time outside.

Want to spend more time with friends and family this year? Schedule gatherings outside. Six feet of social distance feels close in a big open park. Outdoors, you don’t have to worry about breathing each other’s recirculated air. Take the masks off and share some smiles. Many parks in the area offer shelter houses that you can rent for your gathering. At county parks, we’ve had families rent campsites and cabins just for birthday parties or family gatherings.

Now is a great time to coordinate schedules, make reservations, and get those gatherings on the calendar.

Want to get in better shape? Resolve to walk or bike nearby trails. A fellow conservation director I know does a thing where he and his wife go on at least 52 hikes a year. They mostly go to nearby parks and wildlife areas but they throw in some traveling for good measure. They snap pictures along the way and post them to social media so folks like me can envy their resolve.

You’d be surprised at the number of trails, parks, woods, and routes for an afternoon walk you can find close to home. What’s better is you don’t need a membership and you can take the kids. And the dog. And invite friends. Out on the trail, it’s almost like it’s 2019 again. Remember those days?

Want to get your mind right? Improve mental health? See above. The benefits of time spent outdoors, especially in natural settings, warrant their own infomercial at a minimum. Maybe even a dedicated TV channel. Probably a Netflix series. Science has only begun to understand the power of the natural world in reducing stress, boosting immune function, mitigating anxiety and depression, calming ADHD, and just overall making us happier. Physicians around the world have begun prescribing time outdoors to treat a host of modern maladies.
Lucky for us, we live in flyover country and not in one of those coastal concrete jungles. We measure social distancing in acres and even residents of our “big cities” are generally only minutes away from a sizeable chunk of nature to bask in. So what’s stopping you?

Want to eat better? Start planning a garden. Don’t have a plot of dirt to plant things in? Buy pots and find a window. Or find a community garden. Or Zoom call with some neighbors and make plans to start one. Go fishing. With said neighbors. Eat food that the natural world provides. You know exactly how many places there are to fish around here? Me neither, but it’s a bunch. And fishing, like almost everything outside, is another one of those things that gets better with friends, kids, grandkids, neighbors and sometimes, even complete strangers.

Remember, we’re all one community wading through these crazy times together.

There will be a lot in the coming year we can’t control, for better and for worse. But we can control how we choose to spend our time. We can choose to spend it lamenting all the things we can’t, or shouldn’t, do. Or we can choose to make the most of the times and place we’re in, get off the couch and start living life. Make that choice and you can bet 2021 will most certainly be better.

What’s your resolution going to be?


  1. I love the following lines from your version in The Hawk Eye: "You know exactly how many places there are to fish around here? Me neither, but it’s a bunch." When I lived in SE Iowa (Burlington, Iowa City), I used to think I could only fish on a farm pond, public lake, or in the Mississippi River. In the last couple of years, I've come to realize how many other places there are to drop a line in the water. It's gotten to the point that every time I cross a creek on the highway no matter how big or small, I look at it and think there's got to be deep hole somewhere holding fish. I've also mentally thought of all the places I overlooked in where I grew up. I enjoy your writing, Chris. Des Moines County, Iowa, is a special place. Shae

  2. Thanks, Shae. I appreciate the note. This place certainly is special to me. And thanks for reading. Cheers! ~Chris


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