The Great Unlearning

It happens every time Caleb goes fishing (or hunting). He walks in the door and I look at him expectantly.

"How was it?"

I never know whether he's f*cking with my impatience, but he always gives me the entire blow-by-blow of the fishing adventures.

"Well, I got there late on Friday. We fished all night and got one fish between all four of us....yada yada blah blah blah...awesome spam and egg burritos...yada yada....Saturday two fish....yada yada....blasting sand in my face....terrible fish....3 am alarm on Sunday tempting to sleep in....4:30am to 9am we got 43 salmon...and more yada yada blah blah blah."

And all I want to know is how many fish he got that will go into our freezers for the winter.

All he wants is to tell me about how much fun he had. Because fishing isn't about "getting" fish, and hunting isn't about "getting" an animal. It is a by-product of time spent in the outdoors with friends. A by-product of being a part of nature.


And this totally exposes my extractive philosophical relationship to the land, which is rooted in internalized toxic capitalism and colonial thinking, overlaid with lived experiences of poverty, starvation and food rations.

Capitalism has warped my perception of the value of a human life, as well as all life forms on this beautiful and bountiful planet.

I used to be way worse. I used to calculate how many pounds of fish that he'd come home with, multiplied by market rates, minus gas money, divided by hours of labor. So that there was a dollar value upon his time and upon our freezer supplies.So that I could justify my hippie-redneck lifestyle choices to my parents and to my harsh inner economist (and to my starving, destitute refugee inner child).

And yet, growing up poor, money was always on my mind. I had to justify every penny, and rationalize every decision and action based on economic scarcity and time poverty.

The fear of missing out on the fruits of capitalism collides with survivor guilt, where hustle culture meets the grinding hand-to-mouth drudgery of going without, in order to get ahead at a paralyzingly slow pace.

Alaska has allowed me to become aware, and to unlearn.

Screenshot 2024 04 30 at 2 38 04 PM
Salmon filets, vacuum-sealed salmon filets ready for the freezer, home-jarred salmon, home-smoked salmon.


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