After more than a decade, this memory lingers…

It was another day in Paradise. My daughter and her boyfriend, my grandson Lee, my better half and I were enjoying a fine sunny time on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Better Half and I were dressed for dinner – bermuda shorts, polo shirts and Sperry Docksiders. Our attire was nearly identical, after all, we go steady. We were plopped in beach chairs, marveling over the indescribable grandeur of the Gulf of Mexico. Behind us, about one hundred yards of sparkling quartz sand spanned the distance between the water’s edge and the beach house, where Daughter and Boyfriend were transitioning from soggy sandy beachwear to Tommy Bahama tropical wear.

Four-year old grandson, Lee, was unwilling to call it a day and pleaded with his mother to allow him a  little longer to roll in the soft cool sand and play with his boogie board in the gentle breakers of the Gulf. Better Half and I were assigned to be on the qui vive, since we werealready on the beach enjoying the golden hour views.

Our dear friend Weepy, a long time beach-front resident of the Gulf coast, knows weather and her forecasts have been proven to be correct many, many times.  She often says, “When you are on the Gulf and you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change.”

I was reminded of Weepy’s weather wisdom when I noticed the golden hour had changed to a rather overcast hour. I looked in the direction where Lee was playing along the shoreline.

Startled, I saw the small lad was a bit too far out in the water. The waves had gained some energy and Lee was bobbing in the swell like a sea gull. I yelled and waved at him to come back. Lee kept bobbing. Not wanting to be an alarmist (I have been accused of being excessively overprotective), I asked Better Half, “Does it look like Lee is drifting further out in the water?”

Her one word reply – yes – was scarcely spoken before I kicked off my shoes and headed for the surf. By this time Lee was drifting farther east and south of where we were sitting. Wild and frantic, I plunged into the water, trying to reach him. I knew the only thing keeping him above water was the little boogie board attached by rope to his wrist – a ridiculous substitute for a proper personal flotation device.

Unable to swim because I skipped swim lessons as a kid, I hopped and dog-paddled toward the diminishing sight of Lee. Fully clothed, out of breath, crying and chest pounding, I began to doubt if I could complete the rescue. Since that scenario was unthinkable, I stayed the course, hampered by my clothes now heavy with water and by the notion that I was most likely having a heart attack right there in the good ole Gulf of Mexico.

Fixed on Lee’s ever distant position, I was startled when I heard a deep voice behind me, “Joy, what’s going on?”

It was Boyfriend! Tall, young, strong, and able to swim, he quickly reached Lee and carried him back to solid ground, reaching landfall before I did. Everyone was gathered around Lee – Daughter, Boyfriend, Better Half and finally yours truly, soaking wet head to toe and looking worse than bedraggled. Better Half handed me my eyeglasses, which apparently I had let fly along with my shoes eons ago.

Everyone was smiling and two of us were crying a little too. After Lee coughed up all the salt water he swallowed during the ordeal, he wanted to know if he could go and play in the surf again. “Maybe tomorrow,” his mother answered.

The remainder of our vacation was as pleasant as it always is on the Gulf Coast – despite weather changes and near drownings. We enjoyed late breakfasts, good books and card games during rainy periods. When the sun graced us with her bright light, warmth and harmful UV rays, we made our way to the beach, loaded down with coolers, chairs, snacks, towels, binoculars, shell, fish and bird field guides, fishing gear and bait, hats, a radio and and a few toys for Lee too.

We never took our eyes off of Lee – sporting his new life vest – as he played in the water near the shore. One afternoon, Lee and I were building the umpteenth sand castle of the week. I couldn’t forget the sight of him tossing about in the tide and after the rescue being so dispassionate about the event.

My profound curiosity about Lee’s experience of being alone in choppy seas led me to ask a question. “Lee. What where you thinking about when you drifted out so far into the water and couldn’t get back to shore?”

So young, confident and trusting was he that little boy replied, “I was thinking: I wonder when somebody is going to come and save me.”

I believe most women who are old enough to have grandchildren can look back at their lives as well as contemplate the present and realize just how many lives they have tried to save, to bail out or liberate.

I have done my share of attempted rescues. I have come to the aid of family and friends to free them from poor grades and poor choices, from health issues and economic woes, from drug and other addictions, from loneliness, fearfulness and defeat. My family and friends have done the same for me – sometimes successfully, but often not. Heaven knows I’ve needed to be rescued on more than a few occasions.

Even now I would dive into the deep to save Lee’s life. Be that as it may, it’s much more likely that the now tall, strong, fifteen-year-old Lee would play the role of life guard and I the role of grandmama who never learned to swim.

We are given opportunities to help others along our path and we do. But can we truly take responsibility for someone else’s life? Do we have the capacity to deliver others from challenges they face? If our efforts to save others become overwhelming, then what?

Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize winner and one of my favorite poets wrote “The Journey”, a poem that offers her wisdom to the would-be saviors and those waiting to be saved.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Another poem… this one inspired by my return to the office after a week-long vacation…

Day Dreamer

And all the while as I speed

toward the city and find a spot

to park and cross the busy street

and watch for cars turning left and right

(the drivers not watching for me)

and as I enter the building

muttering hellos and rushing

to catch the elevator

then navigating a network

of corridors toward an office

where voice mail and email await

replies and meetings

are scheduled and grants

are due and letters need writing

and funds must be raised and

all the while –– somewhere else ––

royal        blue        skies

billow with clouds massaging

the crests of grateful

mountains that shelter

secret streams that eddy

and pool and hold

a rainbow of trout.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, please enjoy the following poem, written about five years ago. I have included some photos of the garden today, which is planted with herbs and a few tomatoes.

Joy's herb garden, painted pot courtesy of Children's Advocate Award Luncheon 2010

Spinach Salad

by Joy Godsey

This tiny garden –

a raised bed — was once

the sandbox of a child.

Long bereft of plastic

shovels, toy trucks

and cars, its mitered

two by fours now

corral a winter

Favorite watering can framed by incredible spring blooming vine

harvest of greens. Tough

sturdy collards line

up beside a row

of ruffled spinach destined

for a salad plate

dressed with firm

white mushrooms,

boiled eggs crumbled,

toasted almonds

and a piquant

sauce that

the child

will refuse

to eat.

Overview of Joy's garden with Sally's tomatoes front and center

This year I think I’ll just skip over Christmas and move directly to the New Year holiday. The reason? I honestly need a new year. Or rather, I need a reason to put my new year’s resolutions into effect.  So beginning now, I plan to simplify my existence. Downsize. Discard. Clarify, cleanse and refine my environment.

The other day I decided to clean out my garage. This is a task I take on about twice a year and put off doing for as long as possible.  My  car is never garaged there, rather it is the headquarters for tools, a golf cart, bicycle and moped, holiday light sculptures (from lighted boat parades past), fishing tackle, camping gear, paint (both house and artist),  filing cabinets, a wine cork collection, a huge assortment of hardware (Home Depot: don’t hate) and bits and pieces of bric-a-brac and found objects that I might use to “make art” one day.

One small slice of chaos

To tell the truth, I haven’t actually cleaned the garage, but I have decided to do so and I will. Soon.  And not only the garage, but also my closets, drawers, book cases, laundry room, kitchen pantry and cabinets, et cetera will be purged of all nonessential items. Which raises the question: what is essential?

In accordance with prevailing trends in charitable giving, essential equals food, clothing and shelter. Makes sense. But for those of us who are blessed with an adequate or even surfeit supply of these essentials another question can be asked. How much is enough, or too much?

In the movie, “The Jerk”, Steve Martin declares, “I don’t need any of this. I don’t need anything except just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one –– I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair…”

All I need...

In Steven Kings’s 1991 horror novel, Needful Things, anyone who enters a curio store in the fictional town of Castle Rock finds the object of her lifelong dreams and desires. According to King, the curio shop was symbolic of the 1980’s when, “everything had come with a price tag… The final items up on the block had been honor, integrity, self-respect, and innocence.”

Political cartoon from 1981

Thankfully, the 1980’s are bygone days. We are now entering the second decade of the 21st century and what matters now is hopefully much different from those times.

And so, I will begin to downsize by clearing my home of non-essential items. I’m not ready (yet) for that tiny house or to go car-less, but one day I hope to achieve those goals. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to reverse a lifetime of inherited tendencies to accumulate “things.”

I admit it has taken me six decades to realize that less really is more and that simple, although difficult to achieve, is determining what is important and discarding the rest. What matters now?

  • My family is my number one asset
  • My job provides what I need to survive with some left over to help others.
  • My talents are blessings from God, to be shared with others
  • My friends are my joy
  • My boat remains a necessity. Smile.

By the way, I’ve changed my mind about skipping Christmas. I wouldn’t want to miss the magical times spent with my family during this special season. On the eve of 2010, what matters to you? Please share your comments. Happy New Year!

Yes indeed, it’s always something. And then there is the next thing and the next. Maybe that is why it has taken me over a month to post part two of the revitalization of Pyxis, my Rosborough RF246 boat. Since my last posting, I have been south only once and that was when I was passing through the Florida panhandle on my way to St. George Island to attend a writer’s retreat.

Pyxis at the boat yard this summer

During this trip, it was my privilege to stay overnight at the home of dear friends, Jim and Jayne,  who live on top of a tall dune in Beacon Hill – just a few miles from the city of  Port St. Joe. After a pleasurable evening and a good sleep in charming guest quarters, I headed east early the next morning. First stop: Port St. Joe Marina to check on my lovely little Pyxis.

Jim & Jayne of Beacon Hill, Florida

The marina was all but deserted as I walked the docks toward slip N21. It was a splendid morning on the coast – the type of day when the sky is as blue and soft as well worn jeans. Inside the boat harbor a slow incoming tide kissed the seawalls and gulls competed for the tallest perch.

Gull's haven

As usual, when walking toward Pyxis’ berth, the first thing I spotted was her tall, flared plumb bow, which allows her to slice the water efficiently and maximizes her (rather short) waterline length. The architecture and design of the Rosborough RF246 is what initially attracted me to this brand built for heavy seas by a family-owned business in Nova Scotia. As Rosborough claims, “…she’s quiet, smooth riding, not flashy, economical to operate and has some working boat heritage. A boat that makes you smile.” I agree.

Pyxis at sunset

I hopped gingerly stepped aboard. It is such a great pleasure to once again board Pyxis. After a long summer without the vessel, this quick trip felt like coming home again. Although the writer’s retreat was to begin in less than two hours, I lingered on the boat as she rolled gently in her slip. I went inside the pilot house and was satisfied that everything was as it should be. Galley goods were securely stored, fishing and safety equipment put up overhead and in lockers, hats and other items stowed in handmade gear hammocks swinging over the two front berths and clothes and shoes neatly organized in the hanging locker. Even the head was clean and tidy – a proper little yacht, indeed!

Pyxis - at the helm

Pyxis' galley

Reluctantly, I locked the boat and returned to my truck for the drive to St. George Island. Yes, it was a beautiful day and I had places to go and people to meet – not to mention my new Globe bike (hitched to the back of the truck) to ride. Boats and bikes and books and friends old and new – life is good.

St. George Island boardwalk and Globe Carmel

During a recent visit to Mexico Beach – a tiny gem situated alongside some of the most beautiful and benign waters in the Gulf of Mexico – a friend showed up brandishing a shiny new metal detector. One of my many secret desires is to own a metal detector, so I pushed myself leapt out of the Adirondack chair in which I had faithfully lounged for the past hour or so. “What’s that?” I inquired, wide-eyed and sidling up close to the object of desire.

My friend, a serene and gracious person, was unperturbed by my eagerness. With a beautiful smile, she explained it was her new metal detector and unselfishly handed over the device. With wide sweeps and satisfying beeps I quickly detected 3 bottle caps, a wine bottle foil, and a nail buried in the sand. Quickly bored contented with my findings, I handed the detector back to my friend, who strolled along the beach in search of fresh treasures.

Tiny treasures

Tiny treasures

Later that evening, after my friend departed for higher-yielding territories, our friend and hostess Weepy joined my partner and me on the deck for cocktails. Weepy had a story to tell. It seems that earlier that day she observed a tourist cutting sea oats on the beach. “He must have been semi-gay – carefully cutting each plume and arranging then admiring the bouquet held in his fist,” said Weepy. (Note, the semi-gay comment was not meant to disparage, but merely describe the plunderer’s methodology.)

Weepy was incensed. Having lived beachfront for many years and survived plenty of storms, she knows just how important the berms of sea oats are to her property and her community. My mind wandered as she continued to rant about the miscreant who dared defy Florida state law and risk a $500 fine for a vase full of sea oats.

I began to imagine Weepy as a super hero – defender of dunes,  sister to sea oats, avenger of blight – racing down the beach in tall white boots stenciled with sea oats and a bright green cape billowing in her wake! As I created this vision, I began to realize that the lovely sea oats that grace the beach are indeed treasures worthy of our protection. Moreover, people like Weepy, who care enough to defy interlopers and defend the ecological balance, are also treasures to be commended and emulated.

View from Gull Haven

View from Gull Haven

As I idled through the next few days, I discovered many other treasures on the Forgotten Coast. Among them are an Osprey flying close by clutching a fish in her talons, early morning deer tracks in the sand, the soft Gulf waters warming me as I cast my fly rod into the swell, thousands of frolicking mullet fish that have never taken my fly, millions of sea shells, and some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets the planet offers.

Day is done

Day is done

If you are interesting in visiting this area, I recommend Weepy’s Gull Haven. For more information, please leave a comment.

I would love to have a Way Back Machine – one like the WABAC, a computer/time machine introduced by Mister Peabody, the animated dog genius on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. As you recall – if you are an aging Baby Boomer and have not yet lost memory function – Peabody and his pet boy, Sherman, would use the WABAC to take jaunts through history. I especially liked the bad puns that closed each Peabody’s Improbable History cartoon segment.

Read the rest of this entry »

What does Van Morrison, Kilgore Trout, Peter Fonda and the waitress from the Lighthouse Cafe in Wewahitchka, Florida have in common? Hint: each are referenced in this story as having something to do with honey. And honey, dear reader, is today’s blog topic…

A raging Memorial Day thunderstorm had chased my traveling companion and me into a local cafe in the small Florida panhandle town of Wewahitchka – noted for its Tupelo honey, Dead Lakes and legendary girl’s softball team, the Gators. We dashed from the truck into the cafe and, instructed to sit anywhere, selected a small table near the enormous window that spanned the front of the restaurant. Apparently the plate glass window had replaced large overhead doors of what was formally a gas station and automobile repair shop.

The Dead Lakes in Wewa

The Dead Lakes in Wewa

Our waitress approached. Her friendly smile showed several teeth were missing. “Whatcha’ll gonna have, honey?”

We placed our orders for fried shrimp baskets with sides of cheese grits and slaw, then sat back and watched the torrent. We were in no hurry to go back out into the rain so were unperturbed when the service was a little slow. Each time the waitress passed our table with someone else’s order, she would stop by and say, “Yours’ll be out in just a few minutes, honey.” When she appeared to be in a rush, she would shorten the endearment to an expeditious: hon.

We had one single purpose for our visit to Wewahitchka on this Memorial Day and that was honey. We were in town to purchase our annual supply of Tupelo honey –– made from the nectar of the white Tupelo tree that grows only alongside the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers and collected by L.L. Lanier and Son –– a third generation bee keeping family.

Lanier & Son bee hives

Lanier & Son bee hives

For those who haven’t partaken of this sweet treat, Tupelo honey is celebrated as some of the finest honey in the universe. Ostensibly Van Morrison agrees and sums it up in the lyrics to the title track on his 1971 album, Tupelo Honey: “She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey / Just like honey from the bee.”

Evidently, this honey is so seriously good, a film entitled Ulee’s Gold was produced starring Peter Fonda in the role as bee keeper –– a character patterned after old L.L. Lanier himself. During a 1997 interview, Fonda reminisced, “I found a lot [of my character] in my father. He kept a couple of hives and I can see him hop-footing it across the lawn, thinking he had a bee up his pant leg.”

In the Florida panhandle from April to May, the moment the bees begin working the blooms of the Tupelo trees, bee keepers strip the hives of all their stored honey. When Tupelo production is over, the hives are harvested before it can be mixed with additional honey sources to ensure the product can be certifed Tupelo honey. Good white Tupelo, raw, unheated and unmixed with other honey will never granulate. This kind of honest-to-goodness honey is as close to the impenetrable swamps of the wild rivers of northwestern Florida as a human can get.

River swamp with cedar and tupelo trees

River swamp with cedar and tupelo trees

So here we were in Wewa (as it is known by the locals) on a stormy Monday in search of genuine unadulterated Tupelo honey. We knew where to go, we’ve been here many times before. We turned off County Road 71 onto Lake Grove Road and drove until we saw the open gates at L.L. Lanier & Sons’ establishment.

I steered my truck along a sandy drive, dodging puddles deep enough to swallow up the lazy wet hound that ambled from the junk-strewn yard.  I stopped next to the side door of a decrepit house where various-sized jars of Tupelo honey were displayed on an upturned 55-gallon wooden barrel. An old cedar board hand-carved with the word “honey” lay half-buried, along with a collection of broken toys and rusted tools, beside the porch.

I stepped out of the truck to inspect the jars and an elderly woman appeared from the house. I could hear the indistinct sounds from a television in a nearby room. “Kin I hep ya?” she asked.

L.L Lanier's offerings

L.L Lanier's offerings

“I’d like a case of the eight-ounce jars,” I replied. Then, “I wish I had some of those biscuits from the Lighthouse Cafe to go along with this good honey. But anything is good with this honey spread on it.”

The old woman looked puzzled for a moment then came back, “Me? I don’t like honey. I like syrup, but not honey. That’ll be fifty-four dollars.”

I hastily pulled the cash from my wallet and handed it to the woman who thanked me, then stepped barefooted into the house. I loaded the honey into the back seat of the truck and backed out of the yard, pleased that I had scored another year’s supply of Tupelo honey and a few jars to share with friends and family as well.

I know I’ll return again to Wewa to buy up next year’s honey stock… just like Kilgore Trout wrote in his last known poem:

When the tupelo

Goes poop-a-lo

I’ll come back to youp-a-lo.

Being a hat collector, I cannot explain why I waited so long to purchase a Tilley hat.  My hat collection includes a red fez, a jester’s hat complete with little bells, a black bowler, a Stetson and other cowboy hats, straw hats, Filson hats, a squirrel fur hat, a really weird hat made from human hair (no, not a wig), watch caps, a Greek fisherman’s hat, a white “dixie cup” sailor’s cap, hats with ear-warming flaps (these are particularly unflattering), wool, cotton and velvet berets, fedoras, and straw hats.

 

Paper Hat

Paper Hat

 

Also on my shelves are a Salvation Army hat, a German trenker hat with feather, numerous caps suitable for speeding along a country lane in a sports car, Confederate Infantry officer’s hat, a hat for one of Santa’s elves and one for Santa himself, Peter Pan’s hat with a long pheasant feather, two Sombreros,  an official Boy Scouts campaign hat, a WWII women’s Garrison cap, rain hats with floppy brims, a Musketeer hat with a fluffy white feather, a tall white chef’s hat, and countless ball caps – some with logos, some without. Oh yes, and now a Tilley hat.

 

About two weeks before I bought the Tilley, I was shopping in a trendy consignment shop and spotted a saucy little straw Fedora with a blue straw hat band woven right into the crown. The hat had no label, in fact nothing inside except sweat stains. I picked it up and tried it on and lo and behold, it fit. Finding hats – especially vintage hats – in my size, which is six and seven-eighths or sometimes seven, is rare. Let’s just say that one size does NOT fit all. I paid the clerk eight bucks, put the hat on my head and sashayed out the door.

 

I had convinced myself that the straw hat I purchased would be my last. After all, my collection was not as important to me as it once was. I had moved on and hats were, well, passe. Then on Saturday, as I was shopping for .410 shotgun shells at Mark’s Outdoors (having used the last one on the big copperhead in the front yard), I saw it: the Tilley hat collection. Being a hat pundit, I was already familiar with the brand. I knew these hats were built to last a lifetime. I also had a vague sense that Tilleys were somewhat nerdish and being somewhat nerdish myself, I was drawn to the display.

 

I selected a Tilley hat from the rack. It was light creme color with a not-too-wide brim, which I hoped would not rest mid-ear. Before placing the hat on my head, I looked inside the hat to determine front and back. A large label sewn into the hat’s crown described the hat.

 

The Label

The Label

THE FINEST IN ALL THE WORLD

INSURED AGAINST LOSS, GUARANTEED FOR LIFE

(REPLACED FREE IF IT EVER WEARS OUT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The label went on to describe other virtues of this seemingly miraculous hat – features like UV protection, water repellent, wind cord, et cetera. Then I saw a small brochure tucked under the label. It was the hat’s Owner’s Manual and included the warning to remove before fitting hat. The four-page manual was tremendously informative, providing important details such as “which is the front” and revealing the secret of the secret pocket where one might stow emergency cash or a fishing license. As if this altogether was not enough to convince me to buy, a small sticker on the hat indicated it was a size seven!  

 

I located a mirror in a deserted part of the store and tried on the Tilley. “Not bad, rather handsome,” I lied to myself. (Although I love hats I do not love how they look on my head.) Then, I turned up both sides of the brim using the brass snaps, which “develop a sought-after permanent patina when exposed to salt air”, and swore I would never wear the hat in that fashion unless I was touring overseas.

 

I cannot recall the exact price I paid for my Tilley. It was several times more than the $8 purchase price of the pre-owned straw Fedora and appreciably less than the Panama hats I recently came across online, which go for up to $25,000. I know. $25,000! So, I paid the clerk a reasonable sum, put the hat on my head and sauntered out the door.

 

The Airflow Tilley Hat

The Airflow Tilley Hat

 

After the shopping trek, I arrived home along the beautiful shore of the Black Warrior River and did what any self-respecting nerd would do: with indelible ink, I wrote my name, telephone number and date on the label inside my new Tilley hat. I tucked my fishing license into the secret pocket, put the hat on my head, adjusted the wind cord, grabbed my fly rod and went fishing.

 

Now, here’s the part where I explain how my Tilley hat became holy. That day, wearing my new hat and fishing from my kayak, I caught so many bream I stopped counting AND two large-mouth bass, each in the two-to-three-pound range. Yes, that’s right, two bass in one outing – a feat never before accomplished by this bush league yet unapologetic fly fisher.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

Inasmuch as I believe that God and spirits dwell in rivers, I also believe in my Tilley hat to be the finest fishing hat I’ve ever owned. And though I may never become a master fly fisher, I will always have a deep appreciation for the magic that lives in the art of the fly and just below the surface of water. Oh yes, and also in my new fishing hat.

 

 

 

 

I found the following quote on an online fishing forum I visit from time to time and it reminded me of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago.

 

“If you fish hard and the fishing becomes your life, sooner or later you fish with ghosts; eventually you become one.” ~  Bob White

 

Lepomis macrochirus aka bluegill

Lepomis macrochirus aka bluegill

 

 

Rivalry

 

Near day’s end I sat  on the stone bench 

and watched my shadow spill into the narrow 

valley then spread halfway up the hillside.

 

It wasn’t too late to go fishing. Looking down

the footpath leading to the river I 

noticed my shadow was already there. 

 

Soon I stood in the shallow water with my back 

to the sun and saw my silhouette waving from 

the opposite bank, over where the fish would surely be 

 

drawn to whatever tiny talisman she had tied to her line.

I lifted my old Sage rod and false cast once or twice

before allowing the fly to light upon the darkening water. 

 

A strike! My standard response: Beginner’s luck

and  glanced to the other side of the stream 

to see if my shade had caught a fish. 

 

Her leader stretched tight and she mimicked my rhythm

as I stripped in the line to retrieve my small prize. A bluegill 

flashed into the air, glistening orange in the setting sun. 

 

I looked up and watched my shadow gently remove 

the swallowed hook then hold up the fish for me to admire,

not for its bright underbelly, or quick black eye,

 

but for its wide girth, its heft and length, 

for its large size made record-breaking by the angle 

of the sun and a lifetime of fish tales and lies.

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