Lessons From a River

We all fish for different reasons. Sometimes to be with family or friends and sometimes to overcome something challenging. Some of us fish commercially to pay the bills and others to feed their family. For me, fishing doesn’t really come with any reason. I fish to “plug-in” to the moment, if a looming problem has me in a slump, fishing helps, but at the end of the day, knowing that tomorrow is not for fishing brings me back to reality. I suppose the drive home from a fishing trip might be a man’s most vulnerable state. Leaving something that seems like real life for the mighty illusion.

My most recent return drive from a day of fishing on the San Juan really brought some obvious clarity to my life. When I was in my late teens and discovering eastern philosophy and transcendentalism for the first time; my interpretations were lacking life’s input. I always took to the Buddhist principle that life’s desires were never ending, but I didn’t understand it outside of a purely materialistic point of view. If we aren’t careful, we can get caught in this whirlwind of life. We do not become estranged from our live’s because we fall into an endless tunnel of tasks that need completed. We create those tasks because we are failing at life. Must be a better parent, must be more productive at work, need more appreciation, need to live beyond my original goals, need to be a better community member, must have a better garden than last year’s, need to be more productive! I would say that most of us fall into this trap as we get older in our workplace and at home. Those who have amazing jobs that pay beyond a reasonable wage often fall into a materialistic blender or alcohol and other drugs.

I rarely catch a cloud looming over my back when I am on the water working rising fish. I could honestly care less if I were to drop dead in the middle of the river. Generally when a funk catches me I lose it as soon as I put my waders on, but not the other day. I could still “plug-in” but my patience was less than average and my attitude seemed to be an outlet for the overflowing stresses. I rarely care about catching big fish, while bigger is better, working selective fish on the rise is all that usually matters. As a fisherman, I realize that I need to take a step back now and then and just appreciate the fact that true fulfillment is not realistic in our lives. Even the fulfillment of having children can escape you and leave you flat on your ass. I know this without even having them myself, dogs count; there comes a time when they die too.

The meaning of life is truly besides the point. There is not much room to escape our fate as human beings. Fishing has helped me be more observant of my life. I generally get consumed in the moment when I am fishing, but the lonely drive home brings a lot of insight during my efforts to translate my experiences.

The moral of the story is to stop taking yourself so seriously. You know the cartoon with the dog walking towards the hot-dog dangling in front of it with a stick and string attached to its head? That’s what you look like and only the dog knows it.

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