I know I come off as a Peter Pan of sorts, always talking about fishing and grooving on life with hardly a care in the world. But in reality, I am no different than any of you. Have you noticed that whenever you are talking to your spouse or friend for any period of time -- and no matter what the original subject might have been -- somehow money manages to seep into the discussion at some point? I have.
If you thought that this column is what puts the grits on my table, it isn't. My real job is advertising and graphic design, and as anyone in this business knows, it ranks near the top when it comes to stressful occupations. Somewhere between insane deadlines and clients that think creativity is something that should be free of charge, it's a real love-hate business.
So what does this have to do with my weekly nature column? It may be a bit abstract, but I'll try my best to explain. On a recent Wednesday, I got up just like I do every day, and stood by the coffeepot watching it -- no, willing it to brew faster so I could have that first glorious sip. After finishing my cup of Joe, my wife, Karen, and I leashed up the dogs (two beagles) and made our regular morning walk down to the river.
As we walked the conversation turned to money and our future -- and for me at least, that is not the way to start a day. So when we got back to the house, she dressed for work while I sat at my computer and checked my email. I realized with a start that I didn't have any jobs. None. Not one single thing to do.
I do my best to be an optimist, and I believe that there is a reason for everything. For the past 30 or so years, something always seems to pop up when things get slow. But during the past couple of years, those inevitable lulls have been a bit more frequent, and optimism has been harder to come by.
When this happens, I try my best to put things in perspective. I have a house, two great kids and a fantastic wife. I always do my best to think about all those who are less fortunate than myself. But even with these thoughts, I couldn't shake the fear that maybe this time would be different, and work opportunities would take too long heading my way, with the consequence being even more stress than I was already feeling that day.
In a nutshell, I just couldn't settle down. I made some phone calls and tried rattling some bushes; I kept myself busy doing anything that I thought might be even the slightest bit productive. But no matter what I did, that nagging feeling hung around my neck like a 50-pound anvil. By then it was noon and I had to do something -- anything -- to get me mentally back on track.
After snacking on a PB&J, I thought that maybe another walk to the river might do me good. As I reached the dock, I saw my boat. With a "what the heck" attitude, I jumped on board, fired up the engine and simply took off. Still somewhat discombobulated, I had no idea where I was going or why, but the salt breeze in my face sure did feel good. As I cruised along, I began to see dolphins everywhere. As I neared one group that was feeding in extremely shallow water, slapping their tails and such, I stopped the boat, turned off the engine and just watched and listened.
For the very first time that day, I felt at peace. As I looked at the golden hue of the autumn marsh grass, I felt that anvil that had been around my neck all day magically disappear. Closing my eyes, I even smiled when I heard the unmistakable call one of my favorite birds, the oystercatcher. Opening my eyes, the refection of the sky on the water brought a calm came over me that I would have thought impossible just a short time before.
The upshot of that trip on that day was that no matter how tough things get, I still have nature to guide me. I guess the greatest revelation I had was that I too am a part of nature. I am not above it. Instead I am just a small cog in the massive wheel that turns our universe. I know now that I will be OK, but it took nature to open my eyes and show me that there is indeed a reason for everything and most importantly -- life itself.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.