First Week of Fishing Season (aka they are not biting)

My mom is on the phone telling me how my brother always wanted to fish the first day, but up in the area I grew up in, the water was usually frozen over, and covered in a deep layer of snow.  Down here, the first day arrives and it is pouring when we wake, after an hour or so the rain has stopped, so we put on our hip waders and smart-wool, and go, what I do not account for is the howling wind and soon the fat lake effect snow flakes that catch on my line.


This outfit is more attractive to me than just about anything else a man can wear.

The next morning we pack the car up and head north, and fish in a small Adirondack stream, before heading to a warmer location.  And then the next day spend several fruitless hours fishing the Schroon River with a cold piercing wind, my line either tangles or snags again and again and again and I am frustrated beyond words.  We move to a smaller feeder stream and he puts me in a sheltered location where I cast the line out and it immediately snags.  At that moment I quit, utterly.  I take the dog and we sit on the sandy bank in the sun, while the pirate fishes.  I feel no guilt or shame at quitting, the damn trout aren’t biting anyway.

The thing I like best about this place, other than the friends that have become family, is the peacefulness and solitude of walking here.  I never encounter anyone, and never have the fear of encountering anyone who will ruin my walk.

Later W. and I explore the waterfall that for my own reasons I have named dragon teeth falls.  She is like a forest fairy, climbing up and down banks, saying hi from somewhere over my head and blending in to the beige and brown of the melting forest like she is a part of it.  She is.




I feel, though, like a stupid and lumbering rhinoceros, I don’t know why but I am in a very low spot, energy wise, and maybe psychologically.  I am working through a lot of stuff, and frankly much of my life has improved significantly in the past few weeks, and maybe months, but there is still some things to work out, and sometimes I feel like I am standing on a stone in the middle of the river, I know I will be taking another step, but right now I cannot see the stone that will be the place for my footing.  I keep telling myself that this resting period is part of the process, because it just feels dull and lacks life, and I find myself seeking more natural sources of healing.  Fixing my nutrition, massage therapy, removing chemicals, returning to yoga.

But then there are times the universe seems against me, the one time I go to Clark, viola, bitch.  The one time I go to yoga, viola, esoteric yoga freak teacher, who is a strutting peacock.  You aren’t doing yoga until you breath like this and then he does this weird thing with his stomach.  Okay I guess I am just here to find peace and serenity, you don’t have to call it yoga.  I feel snarky, and when they all make odd faces and hiss in lion pose, I find that I cannot help but snicker, later I feel guilty for my judgment.  Maybe I just won’t go at all anymore, rather than face this, this ugly feeling that this guy is an idiot, or worse that I am still in the shallows, waiting for the fish to bite, while I tangle my line.  Still on the high road, not even knowing that below is a waterfall, still walking the same path, not realizing the woods are scattered with others.

In the long night, I realize that long ago I stopped collecting treasures for my little box, and I need to once again begin to fill it.  I think the first thing I should start with might be this:




New Year’s Resolution: No Need to Reach the Top

view towards the summit

From time to time, my yoga teacher tells us various little words of wisdom at the beginning of class.  Today he spoke of a time when he was out hiking with a friend, and after some time had passed they came to the realization that they would be unable to reach the summit before night had fallen and they had to turn back.   My yoga teacher said that he was lamenting the fact that they would be unable to summit the hike and his friend imparted some words that he had long held as words of wisdom.  His friend said, we are having a good time right?  And the yoga teacher  said yes of course, friend said, then what does it matter if we reach the summit?  We are right here right now having a wonderful time.  The view from the top is beautiful, but it isn’t necessary to the pleasure of this experience.  The yoga teacher said that he wanted us all to apply this to our decisions to make New Year’s Resolutions.  That it isn’t necessary to achieve some high and mighty goal, but rather most important is the day to day effort towards the goal, even if we do not actually get there.  And in the end its the effort that should in fact be the goal.  He said let’s say you decide I am going to do yoga every single day this coming year, a better option would be to say, when I do yoga, which I will do as often as I can, I will put all of my effort into doing it.

So often a person makes this resolution that is almost setting yourself up for failure.  You decide you will reach the top, if you fail to achieve the top on the first day, or the thirtieth day you view it as a failure.  Rather the idea should be to set yourself a goal that involves more of the day to day effort.  The thing is that reaching the summit may not even be what you need to do, perhaps some other goal is more important.  Reach the vista that is 2/3rds of the way to the top, or just go for a lovely walk in the woods.

I have resolved to try and exercise every single day.  I know I won’t exercise every day, I will undoubtedly be sidelined with a cold, and the part time job I have may at some point steal enough of my energy to make exercise more effort than I can give.  The thing is, that I know I need to be aware of a consistent effort to exercise.  I should not see one day of not exercising as a failure.  It is just one day.  And really standing in judgment, oh you didn’t go to the gym so that isn’t real exercise, or oh you only managed 15 minutes, or you were in bed with bronchitis and didn’t manage to exercise for a week, shouldn’t sideline your effort for the whole year.

So what about your New Year’s resolution, have you set your goal as reaching the top?  Or have you set your goal as maintaining a consistent effort for the year?  I have to say, there really is No Need to Reach the Top, if you are taking each step one at a time.

“It is better to travel than to arrive.” – Buddha

Red Buddha

This boat, I paddle myself, along the long winding river.  For me I think it is a journey up river, to the headwaters.  Challenging, but not impossible.  It is finding pleasure in this journey that I sometimes really struggle with, finding joy even in the hardship.  This is a lesson I am working on.  I find sometimes that Zen Buddhism is almost too esoteric for me, sometimes I just want to sit and meditate, I do not want to contemplate a koan, I do not want to have a discussion with my teacher about where I am in the journey.  I just want to stick my paddle in the waters and chop and chop.  Left then right.  When my arms tire, I want to rest awhile in the easy pools, or perhaps bask on the warm rocks in the shining sun.  I know that I must manage the rapids, even when I am tired, I know that there will not always be warm rocks to lie on.  I know that sometimes it will be raining or snowing despite my own wishes for a warm sunny day.    This is the journey.  One moment at a time, one day at a time.  Ever moving, ever changing.  My boat upon this river.

This day, this solstice day.  I sit in front of a large group of parents, teachers, administrators and students.  I instruct everyone to find their quiet place, find the quietest place inside you.  Take a breath in and as you breathe out, breathe out peace to the whole entire world.  The room is so silent I can hear my heart beating in my chest.  I wait one breath, two breaths, three.  On this day, the shortest day of the year, we will do the Sun Salutation, a greeting to the sun.  We stand and go through the poses one by one.  And at the end the small group of children and I bow Namaste, to the light inside of all of you.  Later, as we wait for a late arrival.  I lead the children in more yoga to keep them busy.  I look out into a forest of wobbling bodies, sink your one foot into the ground.  Root it in.  Raise your branches to the sky.  We are trees.  They laugh as they sway in the wind.

Later I will go to chant at the Zen Center.  I want to sing to the world on this auspicious day.  This life is a journey.  I renew.  My year begins today.  As the light of day lengthens.  I paddle left, right, left.  The water eddies around me.  I think it might snow.