Saturday, October 06, 2007

Away from it all

THE World is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours . . .

Wednesday was a good day, but sometimes the best time to address insanity is before it starts. So, in the late afternoon, I quietly exited my office, merged into the already-heavy traffic on 71, and headed out to James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area.

Once there, I put on some hip waders, rigged up my fly rod with a popper, and practiced my fly casting on Bodarc Pond. It was a nourishing way to spend the end of the day.

Walking around the pond, catching and releasing dozens of small fish, was stress-free fun. I don't rely on fishing for my meals, and I am not seeking a trophy for my wall, so fishing, for me, has the three attributes of what I consider a "true" hobby - something that requires complete concentration, an unattainable level of skill, and doesn't really matter.

All three are crucial. Complete concentration takes you away from everything else. Work, home, people, issues, everything melts away until you're there, in the moment, just a guy working a fly rod. The skill level required needs to be beyond you - partially to assist with the complete concentration part, but also to keep you working toward something near perfection. I wish I could say this in smaller, more modest language, but it's a way of brushing up against that other dimension, be it God, infinity, or some unifying force, that stirs and quietly thrills a part of me that can't be dormant.

Finally, it can't really matter in the day-to-day sense. It has to be pure - something done for its own sake. Most of what we do is, in some way, about impacting the world. Our work, our politics, our conversations, our philanthropy - they're all a way of asserting our presence in the world - remaking the world in some small way to better accommodate us. But a pure hobby does not really impact the world in such a manner. It places you "in" the world, instead of somehow with or against it.

When I arrived, the shadows were already getting long, and the contrast of the sun and the shadow on the trees was beautiful, and heightened by the reflections on the smooth pond. It's not yet fully autumn, but some of the green of the trees is fading into yellow and orange, and the sky was a powder blue with just a little haze to soften it.

The sunset Wednesday night was not a flashy, spectacular show. Instead, it was a fading of the light into rose and orange. By the end of the evening, I had the pond all to myself, except for the buzzards roosting in a bare tree over my shoulder. At the end, when I could scarcely see the rise of the fish to take my lure, I didn't want it to stop. I could hear birds and animals calling and rustling in the woods. A woman and her horse passed in the distance.

I love my daily world. My wife is the love of my life. My work is meaningful and challenging. I'm blessed with friends, a nice home, and decent health. My children are loving and wonderful.

Despite all that, a few hours apent on a pond in the suburbs takes me away from all that is pleasant and unpleasant in my daily world. It removes me from my daily world, and offers me a glimpse of something else - something that is always there, but all too easily ignored.



Anonymous travelingal said...

Beautifully written.

You sound like you were channeling Thoreau at Walden Pond.

10/06/2007 1:04 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

i have always wanted to learn how to fly fish. they offered a course in college and i've always kicked myself for not taking it.
it sounds perfectly peaceful.

10/06/2007 5:55 PM  
Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

I haven't been fishing for over a quarter of a century.

You have the talent for making it sound more pleasurable than I remember it.

Of course, for me there was no fly fishing in idyllic streams, adorned in Eddie Bauer waders with philosophical "in the moment" awareness.

For me, it was liver-bait, crawdads, catfish, perch, Zebco 202 tackle, polluted creeks, snakes, snapping turtles and swatting at sweat-bees.

Not exactly "A River Ran Through It" stuff.

10/06/2007 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to go fishing. Went last year and it was great. Peace and quiet. I like using a spinner lure.

10/07/2007 5:01 PM  

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