Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fishing and solitude

A personal preference for cracked oars

I don't want to use an outboard motor on the lake I frequent because they are too dirty, and the water is too pristine. I don't think the nesting pair of loons out there would like the noise, and I don't want that racket either. I don't want to see gas and oil reflecting the sunset, or for that matter pay for and maintain yet another machine. So I use a pair of old, cracked, chipped, grimy, wooden oars to propel the 14-foot jon-boat in pursuit of fish over 65 acres of clean, clear Northwoods lake water.

The lake treats me well - it is my refuge, my sanctuary, my peaceful place, and it has never disappointed me. I am dedicated to ensuring it is treated properly, appointed myself steward, and concerned myself with treating the water and the land around it with respect and gentleness. The lake has taught me patience, perseverance, and gratitude. It is a living, evolving organism, and I am symbiotic with it.

Some of my favorite memories on the lake involve very little fishing at all. Don't get me wrong, I always have a line in the water, but the sentimentality arises from other things. I recall the breeze, the clouds, the sunlight off the trees. I think of the silence when the water is placid, or the choppy swells as a front is moving in. I think of all the stories spoken in low voices with close friends, and I like to remember the times we'd fish until it was too dark to see the dock, and how we'd wait until the moon came out from behind the clouds before making the rowing trip back to shore.

One time I broke an oar, and ever since then I've carried an extra one along in the boat. Another time I didn't tie the anchor very well to the bow, and I had to dive in after it. Then there was the time I rowed out into the middle of the lake before I realized my tackle was still on shore, upon which I briefly cursed my no-motor oath.

It's no big secret that fishing is a popular activity in the Northwoods. It is a recreational activity to some, a trophy sport to others, but no matter your approach, you do it because it's something you enjoy. That is unless you're anything like I was a few short years ago, and you don't get it, believe it's boring, a waste of time, or just flat out uninteresting. In fact, if you fall into this category, you've probably given it a try, decided it wasn't for you, and left it at that. My challenge to you is to give it another shot, but approach it differently.

The truth is, fishing is more than netting lunkers and snapping photos to display at the local tavern. If you approach it openly, suspending judgment, you'll find a lot more. Fishing offers a great environment in which to exercise a receptive mode of energy. Being surrounded by water and wildlife as opposed to telephones, cars, computers, and televisions can help you reset and refocus. Allow yourself to enter into a mode where you become receptive as opposed to pursuit full, because when your attitude and energies are prepared to receive, calm and peacefulness are allowed to wash over you, and clarity will follow. The level of clarity you experience will depend on the trust you have in your gut, the faith in your heart, and how well you act upon your own intuition.

The best part about practicing this peace, this reception in your life, is that the more you do it, the more acutely aware you become of your environment. Year in and year out we incubate emotional relationships with inanimate objects - telephones, cars, computers, and televisions - yet neglect the living, delicate, life-affirming, and irreplaceable resources surrounding us. We do not benefit from the former relationships what-so-ever, but the later is absolutely to our advantage.

If I haven’t convinced you that fishing is an ideal escape, then let me, at the very least, suggest finding yourself a place of solitude, because that’s what fishing is for me. The simple act of removing yourself from a familiar setting for a time can help nourish a new perspective to grow up in place of old, broken ones. Go out into the world, alone, and reinforce your connection to the world outside by letting peace find you in it.

Solitude, being alone, isolation, being out of direct contact with other people is beautiful. Life and work and everything in between inevitably gets jumbled and cluttered and begins to influence your decisions, and when that happens, the best thing you can do is step away from it. I'm not saying abandon your post and go running for the hills, but maybe you need to slow things down, get in a boat, and start rowing.

See you out there,
A woodsman in training

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