Think much, miss much

Howie and I with the last fish of my summer.
Last fish of my summer.

Sometimes we put unreasonable valuation on an experience or project what does not yet, or will never exist.
That’s what gets us in trouble.
We think that a trip will provide clarity or resolve emotional matters, but the truth is a trip is just a trip, and a fishing trip is way worse for the fish than it is good for us.
A few summers ago mom, dad and I visited my dad’s brother in Wasilla then toured interior Alaska from there. While standing next to a scale model of Denali in Talkeetna, a dude shook his head and said, “that mountain didn’t give me no problems, so hiking it sure wouldn’t solve them.”
He was, and is, right.
We get caught up in thinking experiences, whether it be a big fish or an epic challenge, are solutions. This hike will reestablish my emotional equilibrium. Life’s important questions will be revealed in a 60-pound king salmon.
If we have pictures that prove we did something, then we believe the story we are living is one more worth telling. Experiences help, no doubt, but life is still waiting when you return to reality and put the camera away.
I get accused of thinking too much, which is completely fair because I do. On the one hand it allows me to find poetry in simple moments, but at times it also turns my head into a tangled mess of projections, misinterpretations and confusion.
I mentioned earlier that my summer would be gauged by whether or not Josh and I hiked up to Black Bear Lake, but we never made it up.
I figured making the desire to hike to Black Bear known would be a way of holding myself accountable, but I didn’t get around to it. I could make the mountain a metaphor, and the hike symbolic of life passing by unchallenged, but my entire trip home looked very little like I planned. Sure there were a lot of fish and plenty of time on docks and boxing tables, but what I did was different than what I planned. That’s what made it good. I actually ended up looking down on Black Bear Lake while hunting with Don and Tonya Busse. How’s that for things working out?

That's Black Bear Lake in the distance.
That’s Black Bear Lake in the distance.

My summers routinely end on the Thorne River. One last series of casts on a river I annually poke 30 times, but I didn’t cross to the east side of the island during my last week. I concluded my fishing back home in a new way, with a friend I didn’t even have before June.
I met Howie at the dock at eight last Thursday morning. It was his day off, so we were going for a quick trip on the ocean to get cohos.
The fishing was just as unbelievable as it has been for most of the summer and the hook ups started immediately. We exchanged orders contradictory to helpful and laughed.
“Rod tip down, rod tip down!”
“Put it in the kicker, get it in there!”
Once we neared our limit, we sorted through the smaller salmon brought to the boat and I finished off our 12 with a fat, flawless silver. Back at the dock, we finished cutting the fish just as the expert Tess showed up for actual work. She wasn’t too harsh in her critique of our knife work.
Thus ended my Alaska fishing for the summer.
It would be easy to say, “If only I had one more week of summer” but what would that do? If I hadn’t had a summer by that point, why would another week help? I’d maybe have a story that would make good copy and a couple more images that would make good posts, but the truth is you make the summer, the summer doesn’t make itself. It’s just a series of days divided into minutes which you use at your discretion – either in misery, or with the idea that what’s going on is actually good, maybe even better than you expected.
I mean, I was the label guy for two short shifts at Kaleigh’s shop and even worked the vacuum packer. Never would have expected that! I worked slow and got distracted by all the cool stickers, but I only had to be told to be less aggressive fifteen or so times when putting down the lid on the packer to seal the fish.
If only I remembered to look for what I wasn’t looking for more often. It doesn’t take much thinking to know that’s what a summer is really about.

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