Saturday, March 15, 2008

When The Walls Start Closing In


Have you ever had that feeling that the walls are closing in? Do you find yourself needing more space? When doing something, anything, outdoors has to be more fun than being cooped up.

My driveway is scarier than crossing a shale slide during an elk hunt at 9,000 feet. It’s as slick as a greased pig/

It’s tough getting out and doing much after recent eye surgeries. The dangers of falling, jabbing a stick in my eye, or banging my foolish head on some hard object, are very real. Cabin fever has set in, and a walk up and down the driveway offers a great risk of slipping on the patchy ice.

So, I spend time going over my fishing equipment. Some time is spent on-line, and more time is spent sorting out my books. I reorganize my bookshelves, search the internet for other books, handle the many emails that come my way, and answer countless reader questions. It’s something to do.

There is a cadre of people with similar interests, and we argue about which books are the best buys. We discuss the virtues of the how-to book versus those books that take us on an emotional journey with an author that tells us why we should fish rather than how to fish.

I’ve been at this outdoor writing business for 40 years, and long ago lost the need to have a heavy game bag, a limit of fish or the ego-stroking need to brag about my catches or kills. So, when the walls close in, I go outside.

Not far, mind you, because there are no cross-country hikes for me right now. There are no slogging through deep snow, and no chancy ice crossings where a fall is probable.

There are other needs that can be fulfilled without risking an injury that could blind me for life. And, less you think I’m wallowing on the pity pot, such is not the case.

This serious eye problem has been creeping up on me for more than 25 years. It’s nothing new, but it is more serious now than two decades ago.

Back then, I had two good eyes. I was younger, felt invincible, and didn’t look or plan ahead for eye problems during retirement. Perhaps I delayed too long on being checked for glaucoma, but I don’t think that was the case at all. I just didn’t think glaucoma was as serious as it is. It’s a mistake many make.

No one in my family, on either my mother or father’s side, had glaucoma. Or ... they had never been diagnosed with the disease. Frankly, glaucoma is a silent, painless thief of our vision.

Anyone at the age of 40, or even earlier if there is a family history of glaucoma, should be tested at least once each year. The disease can move slowly, and then speed up. My vision had been checked, and my glaucoma pressure taken, six months before the onset of the disease.

It was within normal limits. Six months late the pressure in both eyes was four times higher than normal. By that time it had built up so much pressure in both eyes that it was pinching the optic nerves. The left eye was worse than the right, and it’s why I have no left-eye vision now and why this latest surgery was so important.

I think about my cabin fever or, “going bush” as they once called it, and figure I can tough out another month of relative inactivity. I miss being out in the field on a daily basis, but going blind is a permanent problem. Removing the entire eye, and replacing it would be possible, but if I understand it correctly there is no known way to connect the optic nerve to the back of the eye.

So, I sit and wait and put in my eye drops with religious fervor, and hope my readers pay attention to my words, and I write when I feel like it. I poke around getting ready for the turkey season and steelhead fishing, and a whole host of other things that I enjoy doing and that need doing. Now I get to do more of it, and while it isn’t as much fun as being outdoors most of the day, it has some advantages.

Somehow, it’s difficult to think of more than three advantages to staying indoors most of the time. But, I know the outdoors will still be there once my eye heals and new glasses sit astraddle my big nose.

Knowing that is almost as good as being out there.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/15 at 04:47 PM
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