Keep me out of the bow if there's paddling to be done. I think that's the lesson here.
This past weekend was Trout Camp.
It's an annual gathering, the first weekend in May, in the driftless region of SW Wisconsin. And yes, although temperatures routinely get below freezing at night, and my traditional Saturday swim is a cold one, this trip is the one that officially kicks off summer in my mind. So here we go.
A few weeks ago we headed down to Sanibel Island, Florida, for some relaxation and related whatnot.
Some of that whatnot involved fishing and fresh oysters and reading books.
Some of it involved a stingray and a ridiculously high-speed run to the hospital.
But! What goes around, comes around...
This happened while we were fishing in the Florida Keys last week.
Exactly as foretold by my secret crushes, the Wilson sisters (aka Heart), in 1977:
You lying so low in the weeds
I bet you gonna ambush me
You'd have me down, down, down on my knees
Now wouldn't you, Barracuda?
You can learn a lot from a fish.
I strongly considered following that line up with "because they spend so much time in schools." One more Dark & Stormy and I might have pulled the trigger.
But for real. Fish. They're like geniuses! Because whatever it is that I need the most on any given day? They seem to understand it better than I do. Sometimes they let me catch them at will, just like that, and hold them up for the world to see. Other times, they'll leave me casting for days on end without even a fin-flash of hope.
The fact that they let me catch them at all is a huge leap of faith on their part. But not letting me catch them is, by far, the greater gift. Life's greatest lessons so often follow extended periods of desperately flailing about. Of blindly waving sticks over dark water.
When everything is working, the living's easy like George and Weezy. (Jeffersons reference? George Clinton/Lil' Wayne reference? Your choice!)
I spent last week fishing in northwestern Ontario. Everything was working. Despite rain and temps in the 40s, the fish proved to be very generous with their time. We caught one after another. "We figured 'em out," as the saying goes. Times like those feel like the catching is a permanent situation. Like fishing will be this easy always and forever. Now that you've figured 'em out.
Writing is the same way. Sometimes the words rise up from the depths and just jump right into your damn boat. Everything works and the words pile up all around you, into sentences and paragraphs so many you can't even count. You figured 'em out, these words, and there's a sense that they're going to stay figured out, for always and forever.
The main challenge on those days is deciding which specimens to hold up for the world to see and which to toss back over the side. The implication of the toss-back, of course, is that there are more ideas where those came from. The clear thinking, the concise articulation, the natural rhythm of writing well... you've got all that figured out. Tomorrow will bring another easy boatload. No need to push hard today. Easy come, easy go.
The no-big-deal toss-back is definitely a form of hubris. But on those days where everything is clicking, it's maybe an understandable one.
Holding your ideas up for the world to see is another level of hubris all together. Look at me! I figured it out! Read it! And weep! I alone was able to catch the uncatchable!
Of course in reality all ideas are catchable. Not only that, all the best ideas have already been caught. Look at any piece of writing and you'll see the telltale hook marks from prior writers, prior people who figured out the same things you did; only long before you and better conveyed.
To be honest, I'm not sure where I'm headed here. I noticed some similarities between fishing and writing. That's how it started. I thought I'd be able to shape those similarities into a finely crafted treatise on the feast/famine dualities of fishing and writing and life.
Clearly I was wrong about that. Upon review of the previous 548 words, I see I've been fishing, but not catching. Typing, but not writing. Time to stop casting for the day. Hopefully they'll be biting better tomorrow.