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OPINION: Appreciating the diversion

OPINION: Appreciating the diversion

So, I just got back from another trip. This one was to Arizona. My plan was to attend a book fair and visit some friends. Like just about everything else, the book fair was canceled, but friendship is something that defies cancellation, and times like these put into perspective how important friends are.

When I left for Tucson, there was no national emergency, the restaurants were still open, and the borders had not been shut. That all changed very quickly, as we know, with each day bringing a new, dramatic development. When it was time to come home, getting on an airplane was not an easy move.

The spread of the virus is not — not yet, anyway — as extensive in the Southwest as on the East Coast. When I left Tucson, there were four cases of the coronavirus in Pima County. But word of the emergency is being taken as seriously there as anywhere, as evidenced by morning lines at Trader Joe’s and empty shelves at supermarkets and pharmacies. Tucson is not a pedestrian city, so it was hard to tell by foot traffic unless you headed downtown to the university area, which was as empty as the streets in New England.

A recent editorial in these pages advised taking advantage of the many outdoor opportunities available locally. We are fortunate in Connecticut to be but moments away from a state park or beach, and diversions that accommodate the warning against congregating.

It is a strange challenge: humans are naturally inclined to get together. But we are also naturally inclined to respond to the beauty of our world, and now may be the best time ever to explore that inclination.

The virus infects us in more ways than physical health. The impact on finances and jobs, etc., is being well documented, but I think it’s safe to say it’s affecting every aspect of our lives. While I was away, on vacation (though it was a strange vacation, indeed) I had the chance to contemplate the tricky balance between staying informed, more essential now than ever, and not being overwhelmed by frightening information.

So I would watch the news, but also take hikes, go bird watching, and explore. I was lucky to be able to play a round of golf at a course that straddles the mountains — and I learned something very interesting there.

I’ve long been — let’s see — discombobulated by an intrinsic complication when it comes to golf. Playing a round means spending the majority of one’s day in the open, often in a beautiful setting in lovely weather, a great opportunity to gather in the pleasures of creation and to count one’s lucky stars for being alive in the world.

But golf, as anyone who has ever tried to play it will tell you, and anyone who plays even at a level of greatness will tell you, is a very difficult endeavor. You have to focus on what you are doing. That focus is the whole point.

So, there I was. The course I was playing was amid natural wonder, but instead of scanning the blue skies for hawks I was wondering whether a five iron was going to carry the pond in front of me and whether the green was sloping one way or the other.

And for once, at least, I appreciated the diversion. Every once in a while I would look around and think, gosh, it’s great here, but what was more relieving was that I was able to get away from everything, at least for a moment, by taking the route of intense focus and worrying about that putt. That struck me as healthy.

Golf may not be your thing, but hopefully there’s something out there that suits the purpose. My recommendation is that it’s worth a try.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or