At ease

Today I spent the morning trying to teach my boys a little about fishing. Get this straight, I am no fisherman. The idea that fishing is a sport has never really sat well with me. It ranks right up there with pool and bowling. I can’t say I don’t like it I just never saw the “sport” in it. I will admit that most activities which do not require some form of sweating do not really fit my idea of sport. I am often asked if I fished as a child. We did occasionally go and there is a healthy fly fishing community around Steamboat but I am sure that I preferred running around the lake looking for worms over sitting on the banks attempting to cast a line. 

I did however pick up an excitement for fishing when I started coming to Alaska. Partly this was do to the fact that fishing around Halibut Cove was a totally different beast. There was sport fishing for King Salmon in the Lagoon of Halibut cove. The journey up there was part of the fun. The fish were decent size (some up to 20 pounds) and the cast of characters was quite entertaining. Midway through the summer the sport fishing changed to snagging. This although not very sporting for the fish seemed more sports like to me. With the large treble hook placed deep but not to deep in the water just before the school of fish swam by the act of yanking at ust the right moment to pick out the fish you wanted out of a school was challenging and often quite rewarding. A large king salmon caught by the tail provides some good fight. The pinnacle of the fishing season in the Kachemak bay came with the opening of the dip netting in China Poot lagoon. After a tricky boat ride into a narrow little stream estuary, dawning wet suits, scrambling up a creek with a few waterfalls we would attempt to scoop fish right out of the water with a dip net. This was by far the most athletic of the fishing I had ever done. I was pretty proficient at it and to this day love the idea of sneaking into the lagoon just as the tide is high enough for a boat and trying to get into the deepest hole right under the waterfall. The feeling of the net yanking around 15 feet down in the tumultuous water at the end of the pole makes my heart race a little. 

So fishing off the dock or bank of a little lake seems a little weak to me but I have clearly been spoiled. Non the less teaching the boys how to go about fishing seems like a reasonable “dad” type activity. The only problem is I am probably not the right dad to be doing such. Despite this character flaw I did attempt. After a number of tangled lines and gentle coaxing the boys did each get their poles set up and in the water for a bit. They were more excited by riding in Llyod’s little paddle zodiak boat though. I think they tried fishing from the boat but the best catch in Liam’s opinion was a Lilly pad. Brooke showed up after about an hour and a half to take over. Her demeanor and calmness was well timed.

Interestingly the rest of the day I thought about why I still get uptight about some little things. I didn’t ever loose my cool while fishing but Brooke did point out that I am often a bit on edge after such activities, well most activities which I am not a regular at doing. I gave it some thought as I rode the bike inside (too much smoke and no one to ride outdoors with), as I sat with Liam for a little late afternoon sun, or while I put a second coat of paint on the evolving shed I have been working on. What I came to realize is that although cancer has given me some new perspective and willingness to accept some change it is clearly not as much as some people might expect. I think it is easy to see someone who is dealing or coping or struggling but moving on and think “they have some perspective and little things in life shouldn’t bother them.” Although this may be true to and extent, I have mentioned before I still get frustrated. Little things which shouldn’t be annoying can still be. I have struggled with how to justify it. There is no real justification. Yet, there is phrase we often use when we find we are calm and relaxed… at ease. I think one of the biggest problems with living with a devastating diagnosis is that you never seem to be at ease again. You can be calm at times, you can relax, you can cope but these moments when all seems right is so often when the at ease feeling is still elusive. 

Maybe some day that unease will fade away. Maybe then I will truly be changed. Maybe then the flashes of what could have been, what might be and what is coming won’t matter. Yes, I try living in the moment and I think I do a pretty good job but I won’t claim that it is easy or that I am at ease. I think this is why sometimes even little things still bother me. There is always an edge to living with disease no matter what I tell myself or how I try to act. I am okay with that though. Part of living is accepting that lack of comfort. So hopefully if you see me I am being cool and laid back but if your around me enough you will know that at ease is tough.

The boys still left the lake smiling and excited about the day. So I think I did okay.  I am happy I got to go with them and I hope we get more chances. I really look forward to someday watching the thrill they will feel with a net full of salmon. The real fishing.

Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.


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