Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fishing as a metaphor (or is it a simile?)

I sit suspended, floating in the dark water, and I wonder what is underneath. That's part of the allure of fishing. There is life - an entire ecosystem - in a world we cannot see. That unknown is also what makes me equally nervous. Fishing is a lot like life. You cast out, never knowing what might hit your line. Will it have barbs? Teeth?

I've been fishing a lot this summer, and it has me thinking about what the attraction is. As a girl, I went fishing with my dad often, so having grown up with it, I never questioned why we did it. We went fishing in so many places: Lake Erie, the Atlantic, this very lake. He pulled many things from many different bodies of water, from bluegill and sheepshead to giant red snapper, eel, and shark.

My dad, older brother, and me after a deep-sea fishing trip in the Atlantic
I have recently acquired his tackle and fishing gear - all variety of tackle enough to make your head spin. Fishermen. Always chasing the next best thing, that perfect piece of fake bait that will catch the big one. Incidentally, my dad was also a salesman. And a risk taker. He could convince the dead to buy life insurance. And he was always chasing the next best thing, even if it meant taking risks.



So, what is the attraction?

It's the unknown. The unknown can be scary, but it can also offer an elixir of hope. The unknown can yield the perfect fish. Fishermen are gamblers, ever hopeful, optimistic, hedging their bets that the next cast will bring luck.

Then, there is the waiting, and here's where fishing becomes therapeutic. In that silence and meditation-like concentration, time stands still and all worry and thoughts dissipate like ripples over the lake. The mind settles too in that quiet space. It's so quiet, it's almost deafening. This silence. Sit. I learned to be still from fishing, my first moments of quiet meditation floating suspended in time on a lake, waiting patiently for a nibble.

And then it happens. A ripple of movement reverberates up the thin line, up the pole to my fingertips. I pull back. The hook embeds. The catch. I reel in, pulling back every few seconds to ease the journey from water to air. My pole bends, and it's like Christmas. What will it be? Is it big? Will it have barbs or teeth?

I recently caught a foot-long crappie from the lake by my house. As it surfaced from the dark water, I reeled excitedly, my heart pounding. Its giant mouth emerged first, gulping great heaves of water and fighting futilely against my hook and line. Its big eyes bulged. This "man vs beast" moment is so primal, and I think it's also what keeps fishermen coming back for more. It's survival that clicks in, even though I can buy whatever food I need at the grocery store. It's a deep, innate instinct that hooks us into sports like this. And, the fish also primal, fights instinctively, a drive thousands of years old that says: no. Fight. Stay alive.

That drive is so strong in fish, their bodies so primal, their hearts keep beating for hours after they're dead. This phenomenon is shared by other creatures, such as turtles and frogs. Long after that crappie was dead, its head cut off, gutted and its body in my freezer, its heart kept beating hours after. If you're brave enough to place the heart next to your own blood vessel, like on your wrist, it will continue beating for hours, syncing up with the rhythm of your own blood flow. This drive to live, to survive, to keep moving forward.

I inherited many things from my dad: his tackle, his pole, but also his willingness to follow his dreams and the hook of hope for what's around the next bend. Like the fish, my dad's heart keeps beating after death. It lives in me, and in all that have hope for the next good catch.




1 comment:

  1. You are brilliant beyond description. I adore this blog entry so much.

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