I wish you could have gone with us to our fishing hole last night. It was a warm, breezy evening, the sun dropping toward the trees behind us and lighting up the meadow grass till it was golden. Red-winged blackbirds and martins swooped low over the pond, gathering insects and drinks of water and chattering at us because, in the case of the blackbirds, we were disturbing their nests. Geese called to each other and a woodpecker drummed against a tree. The new cattails and rushes were a brilliant green, the pond the steel grey of spring water, the sky perivwinkle with tufts of clouds (my sister calls them ‘Simpson’s clouds’ because they remind her of the opening shot on the TV show). After a busy day of school and work, the pond called us to come and just breathe.
Fishing is relatively new to me. My husband introduced me to it about 12 years ago, and I fell in love. There is something so peaceful in the monotony of casting and reeling, casting and reeling, hooking something that might be a keeper or a throwback, baiting a hook. There is no time to worry about anything. There is nothing to do but relax.
The Littles (and Big) have fished since they were very small. There are rules when we go fishing. We only take one phone, in case of emergency, and it stays in my pocket unless I want a picture. We have to talk quietly. We each have to do our best to bait our own hooks and remove fish from the hooks when we catch them. (Sometimes Dad has to help all of us! I’m not so good at getting a fish off the hook. Too afraid I’m going to hurt him worse than I already have, especially if he’s small and I know I’m going to throw him back.)
There are lessons to be learned here that wouldn’t have been taught if Martin had not come into my life, because I didn’t know the benefits of fishing before him. It’s more than just fresh fish on the table, which is delectable enough. It’s unplugging, unwinding, taking a minute to be by yourself and a minute to just enjoy your family. It’s taking time to appreciate what nature has to offer and to teach us.
It’s working alone and working together. Martin is gentle as he baits Littlest’s hook for him and reminds him how to set the hook. Littlest glows under the attention. He is a social fisherman, wanting to be close to someone else while he casts and reels. If he isn’t close by me or his dad, he is glued to Middle’s side, constantly seeking guidance and conversation. He gets to completely be himself as he fishes in a way that the daily grind sometimes takes from him.
Middle is an introspective fisherman. He most often wanders down the bank of the pond to be alone with his thoughts. He baits his own hooks, removes his own catches, and only speaks or acknowledges us when forced. I admire this in him. I watch him sometimes when he is focused, wonder what is going on in his very active little mind. What adventure is he on that we are not privy to? Because trust me, that imagination is always working. I don’t ask. I let him be him in a way that the daily grind sometimes takes from him.
A fishing trip is one of the best ways for me to enjoy watching how my husband impacts my sons. His gentle strength, his calm manner, his deference to nature–these are all attributes I want my boys to have. He teaches them to stand on their own, but also how to work together when they need help. He shows them how to take advantage of what nature has to offer without taking advantage of nature. He is a natural science teacher because he knows so much about how the environment works and he talks about it conversationally. The Littles rarely even realize they’re learning. He calls me the homeschool teacher, but the truth is he is just as much their teacher as I am.
I love that fishing season starts as the school year ends. It is a good transition into natural learning. And getting lessons from Dad means Mama gets a bit of a break. And as all my homeschooling darlings know, Mama needs a break by the end of the school year!