Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fishing Truths



This weekend Tom, Gavin, and I tried fishing. Salt water--you don’t need a permit for the marine district in Connecticut. I hadn’t fished since before I was 6 years old. Tom’s last cast was at 12, and for Gavin it was a first.

First came the flurry of gear acquisition, a fun field trip to the outdoorsman’s mecca, Cabella’s. Then the novelty of bait purchase, sandworms and a meaty fish. Tom grappled with the pole’s mechanisms, different from the secondhand rod he’d acquired as a child. Then, finally, the day of the dock.

Such expectation! My father had been a fisherman, and I wanted to honor his spirit with the same intense commitment. But I couldn’t bait the monster of a sandworm, something straight out of a Grade B horror flick. I couldn’t watch it writhe, couldn’t witness the horrifying twin squirms after it was bisected.

Tom had his own ideal to aspire to, that of the father-son bond that comes from looking out over the water and waiting. And wait we did. For a 6-year-old, it wasn’t easy. Gavin pulled in his line a lot, to see if the bait was still there. He climbed the steps up to where he could look across at the osprey aerie. He peered into other family’s buckets, gear boxes. I walked him down to the other end of the boardwalk, hoping we’d spot a turtle. We commented on the raising and lowering of the train bridge, the curve of a sleek sail, the narrow beach that got buried under vegetation since spring.

I knew it was inevitable, after all Gavin was asked to wait for more than an hour. “I’m bored; when can we go?” A few more casts by Tom, who’d found his groove and had a few tugs by way-too-clever fish. “When can we go?” came again and again, each echo closer to the last. I was timing the whines like contractions.

Gavin did well, for the first time out. Even for me, with my father’s legacy and my quest for simplicity, it was hard to ease into. Through it all, there was always that distant hope for a fish, mixed with the realization that I hadn’t a clue what to do with it. This sitting and waiting, this gazing out, this not knowing the outcome felt foreign, in one way. And I could have done without the bait smells. But it also felt free; it felt accepting and calm and rare.

It’s good that we did this, this waiting and watching, together. I hope our abilities to acquire both quiet contemplation and dinner can grow together, as a family.

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At 7/25/2008 3:02 AM, Blogger JacquelineC said...

Hey thanks for the link. You might enjoy my Cordova Alaska

and also:

Hope you'll join this October's "Teach a Man to Fish"event!
- Jacqueline Church


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