A recent column here prompted Stephen to send the following article.
We are delighted to print it as a Guest Column.
Working in an office pays the mortgage and grocery
bills well, but that is not enough to live on. Schedules, meetings, deadlines
and paperwork had choked out all but a last few fragments of my sanity. I
needed to restore some sense of perspective on life. It was time for some
fishing. After the mercenary drive home and dutifully eating my dinner, I found
myself drawn to a favorite spot on a nearby creek that I have fished many times
before. There are more exciting places with more fish and bigger fish, but I was
not interested in them at the moment.
I started at the bridge where the manmade roadway meets nature's meandering
creek, and walked along the creek's banks to a particular pool I had in mind.
A wooded flood plain of mixed pines and hardwoods extends away from the
left bank of gravel and sand. The trees absorb all but the loudest noises, and
the gravel and sand make for easy walking. The other side is a hill of bedrock
that dives down directly into the creek. Moss, weeds and small trees cling to
the crumbling slope, living life on the edge in the truest sense. As the bedrock
erodes, chunks of it, large and small, fall at random and are swallowed up by
the flowing waters, creating the riffles and pools called home by the bass that
I sought. Secluded from the hubbub of human activity, it is a place that nourishes
my mind and soul.
My angling success was only fair that day -- a few small fish with foolishly large
appetites. I returned the fish to the waters in which they belonged as I do all the
fish that live here.
Contemplating possible improvements to my methods, a movement in the blue
above me caught my attention. I raised my head to see an osprey on the hunt.
It took full advantage of the breeze striking the hillside, circling between the
updraft and a close examination of what lay within the creek. With great care
and painstaking method, the osprey worked its way upstream, studying the
water for a meal. For the osprey, fishing was serious business not
to be taken lightly. Rather quickly, it passed over my head and the pool I was
fishing. I told myself this was because it feared my presence, and not because
I had selected a pool with few fish.
Soaking my line in the water and myself in the solitude, I let the tension of life's
mundane struggles drain from my mind. I stopped fishing for a while to watch
as the water tumbled thorough the riffles. A fisherman is supposed to "read the
water" to learn where the fish lie in wait for their meals, but often you can learn
more. The turbulence of the riffle spoke of the obstacles faced by the water in
its natural response to gravity's urgent call, each disturbance at the surface a
result of particularly large impediment to flow. After the riffle, the water's chaotic
swirls and waves dissipated into the pool in which I stood. The slower waters
reflected the woods and hills without any indication of previous tumult or what
lay in its shadowy depths. I looked downstream from where I stood, to the next
riffle in the pattern of alternating riffles and pools of various sizes that had started
at the creek's beginnings. How many more riffles and pools were there until the
creek eventually released its vitality into some larger body of water? I could not
tell from where I was standing, but I was certain that the waters would pass through
all of them. I continued my pursuits and caught a few more fish.
After a while, I again spotted my friend. (I decided the osprey was my friend
because of the time and space we had shared earlier.) Returning from a successful
effort, a wriggling fish was clutched in its talons. The fish was carefully held head-on
to minimize the wind resistance. Not wasting any time, it flew a direct path following
the creek downstream. Laborious beats of its wings were needed to maintain altitude.
The osprey passed over my head without looking down. Burdened with its prize, it
flew around a bend in the creek and to wherever ospreys go to finish their meals
and enjoy some peace. ~ Stephen A. Muth, III
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