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Parting the water…

February 20, 2012

“I fish better with a lit cigar; some people fish better with talent.” ~ Nick Lyons, Bright Rivers, 1977

My dad loved to fish.  I can close my eyes and see him sitting in his boat with a big “stogie” in his mouth and his fishing line in the water, waiting for a bite.  I can smell the pungent cigar smoke and the fishy lake water.  I can hear the water lapping against the side of the boat.  I can feel the hard seat of the boat, and see my dad’s hands letting line out, reeling in, rhythmic whether the action was fast or slow.

At least one of those memories includes a trot line.  We were sitting in the boat, waiting.  I became aware of another fishing boat moving slowly toward us.  They were checking their trot line.  One of the men would reach into the water, pulling the line up out of the water, into the air, to check that hook for fish. Even though he was only checking that hook, I could see other hooks rising out of the water.  At descending heights, all connected by the wire that spanned a section of the lake.

It was a simple and beautiful sight, that line of hooks.  Each rising in its turn out of the water as the fisherman held the one hook he was checking high in the air.  There was the light reflecting off each hook.  The water parting like a small miracle as each hook emerged.  Droplets stretching from each hook until they let go, falling back into the lake.

At some point in the loss experiences of adulthood, I remembered that trot line, and realized how much it was like the presence of grief in our lives.  All those losses put to rest below the surface, pulled up through the waters of our heart by today’s grief.  Grief upon grief, as though this day’s sorrow alone is not enough. And so it goes with grief and loss.  A line connecting past and present.  Pulling other hooks into the air to be held again, felt again, lost again.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between this side of death and the other, is that death is an event. Living is a process.  A process that changes us through an unpredictable mixture of joy and sorrow.  The process of becoming in this life can be complicated and messy.  Sometimes losses happen too close together and joys seem few and far between.  Isn’t it ironic that part of how we learn to live through loss is that we lost, and did not die.  That our ability to feel the depth of our joy is its contrast to the loss that preceded it.

“If you ain’t got no pain in your life, how would you even know when you was happy.” ~ Black in Cormac McCarthy’s  Sunset Unlimited

14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2012 11:09 pm

    Beautiful description both of the fishing and of the experiences of life. Thanks.

  2. February 21, 2012 12:35 am

    Paulann. Beautiful!!

    How do you DO this!?

    I am done for the night. No more reading. I am sitting with this…

    Thank you. Thank you.

    Peace, Jen

  3. February 21, 2012 8:34 am

    I knew I would be OK when I started reading this. My heart just relaxed and sunk into your watery prose. Thank you. I love how people look when they’re having their picture taken with a fish.

    • February 23, 2012 9:36 pm

      Thank you, Patrice. What a lovely, gracious comment. I was excited to find the picture of my dad in a box of family slides. It captured a moment that was absolutely him. You’re right about pictures “taken with a fish”. 🙂

  4. Anonymous permalink
    February 21, 2012 9:16 am

    I am so proud of you. How you express my thoughts and memories when I can not do it. Thanks for the memories.

  5. PattyMac permalink
    February 21, 2012 9:21 am

    Thanks for this my friend. It opened up my grief a bit and let some of it out with a good cry this morning. My Daddy was a fisherman too and I liked to be with him even though I really did NOT love to fish! Wish I could express my memories like you can!

    • February 23, 2012 9:55 pm

      Patty, I’m glad you let yourself take some time for tears. I’m sorry our dads didn’t know each other in healthier days. They could have been fishing buddies. I wasn’t a big fish person either, but I loved watching my dad. He caught and cleaned a lot of fish over the years. We enjoyed eating them. The funny things is he didn’t eat them. He didn’t like the taste of fish. Thanks for reading,…and a good cry can be healing, friend.

  6. February 21, 2012 9:01 pm

    Tag you are IT!


    for details… This is fun!

    Peace, Jen

  7. Carol Morley permalink
    February 27, 2012 11:33 am

    Paulann — this was very timely and very wise. Thank you, as usual, for your beautiful words, your lovely photo, and your wisdom. You seem to always come through when I need you the most. — Carol

    • February 27, 2012 7:29 pm

      That’s very sweet, Carol. Thank you. I sure miss your Midwestern visits. You need to come see us just for the heck of it sometime. ~ Paulann

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