The pandemic, mental health and hunting ‘wild coins’

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been walking around daily to get out of the house and look at something other than my computer screen, ashamed to be told “You’re dumb (again)!” Makes a change of location a mental health necessity. Of course, hiking has helped many of us weather the pandemic, but for me, hiking is also a prize hunt for the elusive wild coin.

A few years ago, I was hospitalized with severe depression. In your recovery, you’ve learned the importance of efficacy, and the self-esteem that comes from making your own decisions and taking responsibility for them. My decision to become a professional wild coin hunter and then create my own hunting rules is a low-risk reminder of how important it is to be free to manage one’s own life, not to be taken for granted for someone who has been locked in a locked psychic unit.

I define wild coin hunting as a sport that comes as you are – no metal detectors, coin hunting apps or truffle hogs to be used. Beyond this basic, there are three rules, all of my own creation. Rule 1: The coins in our house and in our driveway are local. Collecting them is a home business, not hunting. Coins found at all other locations, including our own yard, are wild coins. Rule 2: Coins under chair cushions in public places are also wild. If you decide to change these rules to better suit your coin hunting environment, I am all for it.

The third and final rule defines the basic nomenclature for coin hunting: Rule 3: Coins that are found where one would not expect to find, say, two quarters in the middle of a crowded parking lot, should be called “new crap”. If it wasn’t new, it was recently dropped, someone else would have pounced on it before you got to the scene. Any humor associated with the term “fresh droppings” is an accompanying recovery benefit.

As a professional, I have the knowledge and skills to achieve maximum success in any coin hunting expedition. The best of times, places, and under what kind of cover a crypto-wild currency is most likely to roost – a professional hunter knows all this and much more. Coin hunting knowledge is gained through careful observation and patient study, immersion in the realities of the coin kingdom.

In mental health recovery, immersing oneself in reality is healing—an escape from the mind where shame and self-loathing nullify sleep and destroy pleasure. These days, rather than beating myself up or causing disaster, I’m looking for coins in all the right places. If you are among the many whose depression and anxiety has been caused by the pandemic, I invite you to get out of your head and enter the real world of coin hunting.

As you might assume, parking lots are wild currency producing habitats. Hunts often take me across multiple parking lots and sometimes to parking ramps. I live in a suburb close to Minneapolis, and am fortunate to live within a reasonable chase distance to some of the most coin-producing parking areas in my state.

The parking lot of the local infirmary was especially fertile for me, as I once fetched a piece of six coins, three quarters, and threepence, one of my happiest days during the pandemic. Of course any time I find a coin is a happy time, even if it’s just a corroded penny. Depression taught me how precious happiness is. We have all known this pandemic. If you can picture yourself smiling with fresh poop in hand, then wild coin hunting is what calls for you.

I love fishing in the late afternoon. I can move on during the day, and even do some unpleasant things, knowing I have something to look forward to. And then when I go out, the slanting sunshine adds a touch of fire to the falling coins, making it impossible to miss. A newly minted penny, burning copper so bright, you have to stare at it to look at it, is the Mona Lisa for coin hunting.

I also love catching coins in early spring. Spring hunting in Minnesota is thanks to the snowy mountains in the winter, the huge piles of snow left by plows in parking corners after a snowfall. These tops grow when plows add snow and whatever else you throw away. Then in the spring, the sun slowly melts the mountains, leaving plenty of rubbish, but also the coins waking up after their winter hibernation. Hunting the field of melted debris, you will get as close as possible in this life to the paradise of coin hunters.

Like I said, coin hunting is about reality, and the reality of coin hunting is that you will most likely come home after a hunt with nothing but a coin. My success rate is around 15%, and I’m highly skilled. My advice to the novice hunter: do not despair. You will improve, your eyes will become more keen, and your knowledge of coins will increase. If you keep hunting, you will find them.

Meanwhile, how do you keep hope alive when days turn into weeks without a cup? The answer is resilience, accepting the reality of disappointment, while maintaining hope for future happiness. I’ve found coins before. If you don’t quit, you will find them again. This is the reality, and resilience thrives on reality. For mental health, for survival during a pandemic, for fun scavenging coins – flexibility, realism but never despair, essential.

As a professional who has been fishing for years, of course I have many awards. I am especially happy with all the foreign currencies that I have found. What stories can they tell! How did you get a Zambian coin on a sidewalk in St. Louis Park? While I once thought of my failures and all the people I’ve been disappointed with, now I think of coins from far away. This is healing.

Yes, I have many trophies, but my favorite is not one of my precious foreign coins, nor a dollar coin which I once found in the middle of the sidewalk of a quiet residential street, which made me dream that night of fresh crap in parade. never forget! But still not my favourite. My favorite is a corroded shark I found in the parking ramp at our local clinic.

I almost missed it: The penny was in a little puddle of melting ice, in a parking lot filled with discarded COVID masks, various food wrappers, cigarette butts, a powdered ballpoint pen and one leather glove. I was distracted by all the wreckage, and I would have gotten past it had my professional instincts not made me stop and look at that quiet little puddle. Half hidden at the bottom, a penny was looking at me.

I couldn’t wait to go home and celebrate this last cup with my wife. Celebrate whenever you can, and find a penny that will do the trick, help restore mental health and also deal with the pandemic. Before storing it in a place of honor, I cleaned it a little. With wear, scratches, and severe wear, the history was hard to see. Finally, I was able to make 1947, my year of birth. Like me, this penny hitter is a survivor.

Robert W. Greggs, of St. Louis Park, is a retired minister of the United Church of Christ and a member of the advisory board of Vail Place Uptown, a club for people with mental illness.

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