Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fish Tales . . .

Fishing has nothing to do with catching fish.

Fishing is about everything else but the fish. It’s about being outside, feeling the wind on your face, watching the honking geese fly overhead, hearing the sound of the waves on the water and seeing the sunny sparkle of sunlight breezing across its surface. It’s about discovering life’s simple lessons.

Don’t get me wrong – I am sure all fishermen (and women) love to catch fish. And those who know me well know I truly believe nothing compares to Friday Fish Fry at the Northwood – especially when Celia is in the kitchen!

But to me, fishing is much more than just getting fish from bait to plate.

Growing up, the men in my life – my Great-grandfather, my father, my uncles, and the “tough” boys I loved to hang with – hunted and fished almost every day. They taught me that in fishing, I didn’t have to be “the best”, I didn’t have to catch the biggest or the most fish. They taught me that what really matter was having fun.

And they all loved to have fun! The camaraderie of these men, as they plied the waters in and around the eastern Upper Peninsula and northern Ontario, was truly something to experience. Stories flowed and jokes were told as we sat on the bank of some stream, the plank seats of someone’s fishing boat, or hunkered round a wood-burner in some fishing shack out on the ice somewhere. Lunches always consisted of thick slabs of cheese on even thicker slabs of bread and cold bottles of beer from the mesh bag that had been hanging all morning in the water.

And despite being a knock-kneed, towheaded tomboy I was always treated as an equal on those days they let me tag along – which meant I had to learn to take my fair share of ribbing! Looking back, I now know that those experiences are what helped shape the strong, independent woman I have grown to be.

They also taught me about patience as I learned to sit and watch a cork for hours on end. And they instilled in me a love of the outdoors – teaching me a respect for the peace and solitude that can be found there. In the past few years of my adult life, these lessons of my childhood have returned to provide the strength I need for simultaneously facing my death and loving my life.

From fishing I have learned to take my time – and that this time is the only time I’ll ever have. You either take it, or it will be taken from you. If you want to catch fish, you best be patient. And if you want to live life fully, you do best to slow down. Otherwise, you will bulldoze over life’s finest moments. Life comes and goes so quickly – and it’s not about what you can or can not do. It is about what you choose to do.

I used to take my sons fishing when they were small – one summer we even vowed to live completely off our catch for two weeks in the waters now known as Rocky Island Lake up the Chapleau Road in Ontario. My youngest son – now a banker – to this day carries fishing gear in the trunk of his car “just in case”. Just in case he needs to slow down. Just in case he needs to step back from his supercharged, overbooked, overstretched life and take time to notice the little gems that adorn each day. Just in case the fish are biting somewhere. Just in case.

Fishing has nothing to do with catching fish. Fishing has everything to do with discovering life’s simple lessons.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” -Henry David Thoreau

No comments: