Never Just 'Fishing'


My brother, Mark, and I decided to, take our dad fishing for Father's Day. Dad wanted to go to Fenton Lake, in the Jemez mountains near Cuba, New Mexico. The drive through Jemez is a stunning journey through towering cliffs and red sandstone.

We passed by Soda Dam and the old ruins of the Jemez Pueblo.

Fishing has been an enormous part of my dad's life. He's fished every year since he could hold a pole, and last year was the first time he almost missed his chance. This year, we wanted to make it a day for him, because he has made it an important part of our growing up, as well. Fishing time was always family time.

After an exhausting week spent inside, I was ready for this adventure. There's no better remedy for stress than to be in nature, and that's why I love fishing (besides delicious fish). Fishing gives me something to do that forces me to pay attention to the world. If I don't pay attention to the line, I miss the bite. It doesn't ask me for work, for anxiety, for emotion--just time spent and an exercise in patience and relaxation.

Fishing has always meant a lot more to me than relaxation. I unconsciously find myself writing about fishing quite often. I'm not sure why, but maybe it's that each fishing trip is it's own singular journey. The process is the same, but the place is different. Fishing at Fenton is different than every summer at Angel Fire's Monte Verde. Last summer I fished off a desert Florida island in the Gulf of Mexico and watched dolphins race in the distance. No fish, but so much color I felt as if we were in a cliff of a rainbow. Every trip to Gloucester, MA to the Yankee Fleet fishing boats was a long train ride and a cold morning, a fast flight miles out to sea and finally drawing up the curling muscle of 'dogfish' sharks, more often than the elusive golden cod or silver haddock. Finally, when we did get them, they were too large for my charcoal grill, which we set to burn in the Somerville driveway.

In July 2014, just before I moved from MA back to NM, I took a day trip to Rockport, Massachusetts. The circumstances were unusual for me. I was going through a significant loss and I had never been on a trip out of town by myself. I woke up to a house full of people I didn't know. My three roommates all had guests, and I left for the day before I even made coffee. I took the commuter rail to Rockport, a town North of Gloucester, and a place full of memories I needed to confront. Going there alone meant I was making it my own, in a sense. I went into a Silversmith shop looking at the charms. I wanted to spend my birthday money from my grandparents on something special. What caught my eye was a case of silver fish hooks, ornate and curved, each one different. When I asked the woman working there if I could see them she said--in a voice I'll never forget--, "Oh honey, those are man's charms". I asked her why. "The man who makes them says they symbolize 'strength' and 'provision'" she answered. I could have used some of that myself. I wandered around a bit, but I came back to the hooks. I knew how to fish as well as any man could. I knew how to choose fishing hooks and flies. I knew how to tie an invisible line to a lead weight and what glitter would catch an underwater eye. More than anything, I wanted that symbol of 'strength' and 'provision' because I knew I could find that for myself, without any man. I wanted to remember that moment when I realized that fishing was always more than just 'fishing'. It's a connection to place, to practice, and to provision.

I wrote a poem about this moment. Someday, I'll be able to post it on the site.


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