“Don’t forget your headlamp!”
“Dog got it.” Jay said as he entered the living room, holding up the mauled device.
We looked at Banjo. He opened one eye. What?
Arriving at the pike lake later than we wanted, but earlier than I expected, we still beat the sun there and walked to the east side of the lake in darkness. Come to think of it, I never did turn on my headlamp. Through cattails, we ended up waist-deep in water that reminded me of an onyx headstone -- rough on the sides, but with a glossy finish. The wind grained light through the stone lake, and its surface looked substantive enough to stand upon. But it wasn’t. I was still standing in water, my waders were leaking, and I was cold. It all looked beautiful though, so I didn’t mind.
Then the sun rose with the kind of light that warms inside but does nothing to warm your skin. It’s beginning winter light. And after coloring the sky rogue -- like a little girl putting on her mother’s make-up, who soon realizes she looks ridiculous and that her mother is calling her -- she wipes it all off after only minutes. Today wasn’t a day for being pretty.
“If we’re going to catch anything, it’s going to be in the next 20 minutes.” Jay said, breaking me out of my thoughts with a wild look in his eye as a splash and torpedo sent wakes out from the reeds. “We jumped a pike.” Just like that. It sounded awfully back-alley to me.
And so we kept on casting -- for the next 20 minutes. And then 50. And then soon enough hundreds of minutes that turned into hours. We’d slunk down the best stretch of habitat and hadn’t caught anything except my one baby-bass. The day’s light was making our prospects dim.
“I need food,” Jay assessed. “Want to head back to the truck for snacks?”
Because even when you’re not hungry, food has a marvelous way of making you feel like things will get better. It’s some inherency from our forbears, I’m sure. That at the very least, if you have food, you can go on living – and that, holds the possibility of things getting better. Then again, it also holds the possibility that they won’t. Granola and bananas made pike seem pretty possible though and I was optimistic about the outlook. I said so as I threw away my banana peel and walked back to the truck.
Jay looked at me tiredly, his Nittany lion stocking hat sat saltily askew, resting on top of his ears. He had predicted we were going to have to work for these fish today. Jinxed us, maybe.“Well I'm no optimist, but I'm going to go out there and fish as hard as I can.”
And I thought, as we waded back through the cattails and into the lake, that it's like the idea of being saved by grace. You don't have to work for it, and so you expect that it'll cover you...no matter what you do. But what happens if in fact, it doesn't. You question. And so you live every day, working -- and casting -- hard. Optimism and positive thoughts won’t get you fish, anymore than the feathered wings you made when you were eight-years-old got you flight. And while grace is hard to figure out – impossible, maybe – I still believe it’s there, although it doesn’t come easy, and I’m left with knotted shoulder muscles and leaky waders all the same.
Yet I’m also left with the option to fish and live as hard as I possibly can – wearing myself down and out in the process. And sometimes, that's what it's all about in the end, being worn down to a place where you appreciate the little things.