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Friday, September 10, 2010


Recently, my brother and I spoke about our interests as children.

I loved going out to the lake with Dad, and as I've written previously, learning to fish with him. I'll never forget the low clouds scudding across the sky, the gray waters of Lake Michigan lapping against the launches, or, during the summer vacation on the lake when we floated on those waves and I refused to be nauseated in spite of the stink of rotting fish in the rented aluminum rowboat.

I loved fishing. Early on, Dad taught me to be silent, for, he explained, noise scared the fish away.  "They can hear us!" he said, and whenever I exclaimed over something in my childish enthusiasm, he was first to SHUSH! me, and I was always deeply chastised, not so much because I cared about the fish, but because of my love for him.

Over the years, I became, in Dad's estimation, quite the "fisherman".  When we fished at Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, I staked out my spot and caught fish after fish. Dad, upon seeing my success, would invariably follow me only to experience...nothing. I'd become annoyed and move on to the next tiny "bay", catching far more than I deserved, and again, he'd follow me to the miraculous grotto only to have his worm surreptitious eaten from his hook with nary a scale to show for it.

It became our joke and Dad's unspoken frustration;  he taught his daughter to fish so that she could leave him in the mud of the lapping waves!

My brother though, hated fishing with a passion. The only times I recall his presence, I also recall his complaints. I remember the first time a rod was placed in my hand, a sinker tied to my line, and a worm affixed to my hook.  I was content to sit silently with my line, contemplating the waves and the sky and sensing the movement of the fishing line. For once, Dad and Mom had to spend more time shushing my brother than me....where I was happiest, he was most dismal.

As my brother told me very recently, he found fishing to be a bore and a waste of time. "Why go fishing when I could have been listening to a new album?"

Ah, yes....the active versus the contemplative.

I was always the one given to reading and writing and, well...silence.

My brother was always the one given to action and noise.

I had never really considered it before, but I guess "contemplation" came more naturally to me.  Even the people I know in my professional life don't know my preference for silence and solitude, and this is well, for it is impossible to indulge such preferences in any job I have ever held.

No wonder I have been so miserable for so long.

For years, everything I have done has been against my nature.

I have always sought, perhaps, the solitude upon the eternal waves, the silence of the never-ending wind, and the shadows of the clouds chasing the sun's glow, in every moment.


belinda said...

I enjoyed this post because you have learned to accept yourself for the person who God has created you to be. So often I have surrounded myself with people who have told me that my personality isn't normal. Solitude isn't normal and I should try and change it. I've heard- "It's not healthy" for years and I had come to believe it.I would pray, "God what's wrong with me? Why am I such a crappy christian because I wasn't bubbly and outgoing in a way to share the gospel. I've since decided to be me and if the people I'm around don't like it then I will show them the door. I'm not changing and I wont feel bad for not being something I'm not anymore AND sometimes people need a good slap. It's my "little way" hahahaha.

Mark S. Abeln said...

"The Compleat Angler" by Isaac Walton describes fishing in those terms - a contemplative activity, well-suited for the religious life. He notes how many of Our Lord's disciples were fishermen.

Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

My Grandpa and Grandma Gilbert used to take me out fishing...for catfish on the Rock River (in Dixon)...
wonderful memories...
you make an excellent connection here: utility vs. "being"...

Adoro said...

Nazareth Priest ~ Ah, how I remember the Rock River! We were never allowed to fish there, though; it was far too polluted!