Fishing is Therapy

Not an enduring or endearing image. Life, however, in particular moments, reflects a pin-ball machine as an apt metaphor.

Yes, you can “function” the results with deft clicking and strategic moves. But, for the most part, life is lived within certain unpredictability. And surprises that beckon standing ovations and very bad—brushing into worst, devastations.

All you can do is, even though somewhat pedantic in many cases, “do your best and live your fullest.”

Still, the “moments” never linger…at least during the day.

That happened to me last Friday, August 31. In many ways.

Before setting off from dock space C-14 with Zorba, a dearest friend who “just happens to be a fishing guide,” I looked over at the next boat. It was clear the owner is Bill Monroe, Jr. It was empty. I knew why. For this day, Friday, was the day for a funeral service. It was for Bill’s sister, Kelli, who was killed in a car accident when a truck driver came across the median. The boat was empty. I winced at that.

No, I had never met Kelli. But, Bill, Senior, is a trusted friend, one who’s written, as I pen it, 1,000 years for the Oregonian as their Outdoor Editor. Such a tragic loss. Such a tragic loss. The boat was empty. A time when the day didn’t start with a zest. At least for me.

It also started with a recent memory. Let me explain. This time of year, it’s called Buoy Ten fishing, is the most popular and “most catch-fish” time for Chinook and Coho salmon. On Thursday four of us fished with Zorba, and not different than many other guides, hardly any fish were cleaned for the BBQ. Cannot remember when the salmon tossed a shut-out. One Coho to the net, but it was native, which meant it was released.

So, that, “would today be any different?” crept into my fishing psyche.

Another tug, though, before we left C-14. This hit me so much harder than I had imagined. For years, pushing two decades, when I’ve caught Chinook Salmon from the Columbia, I’ve taken one of them [Yes, there were times when more than one was caught and kept!] to a friend, Mark Kujala. He and his family own Skipanon Cannery in Warrenton, Oregon, immediately west of Astoria. They’ve helped my ministry over the decades with smoking and canning my salmon. Come on. Tell me what’s better for a hostess gift—flowers, chocolate, wine or an 8 ounce can of smoked salmon their pastor caught? The fish not the can for you pushing your sarcastic button!

Sure, I’m no longer pastoring a church, but the cupboard’s bare of smoked, canned salmon. So, before fishing I stopped by to visit with Mark and “make sure” he would smoke and can a salmon.

I had called. No answer. The recorded voice only indicated to leave a number.

Got out of the car, saw the sign, “Cannery Office,” and went to the door. I opened the door. Walked in. And came close to fainting. The cannery building was empty! WHAT???

Mark was there, doing some finish-up paperwork. I had no idea. None. But, my heart ached. For over 100 years the Kujala family, immigrants from Norway, operated Skipanon. The reality is getting workers was not happening. I so ached. A legacy done. Down. Not again. The thud of emptiness…excruciating.

Well, Friday morning leaving C-14, a day before with no bumps on the rod, the day for Kelli’s Celebration of Life service, the empty space not to be changed at Skipanon, we went fishing.

No. I could not have ever anticipated it. No, I really wasn’t thinking of what might happen.

All I knew is Steve [a friend who joined in with Zorba] and I were fishing.

The day had everything Oregon can offer…fog, slight wind, some rain and very warming sun. [Remember, in Oregon you more often rust than tan.] And much to our amazement, the fishing rods were never quiet. Bam. Bam. Bam.

We weren’t able to retain the Chinook because of new regulations, but we could keep the hatchery Coho. As we returned to C-14, we had three Coho and had released six Chinook. What a day. And, with the filleted, vacuum-packed Coho, I’m sure I’ll become the most popular guy in my neighborhood.

In it all, though, this “time away and time within” preached to me. Each day dawns with an invitation to live. There will be life and death. There will be heart-aches and heart-elations. But, in it all, there is God…who gives a rip about us and all creation. For that, the bottom line, that God never leaves us no matter what, is the best affirmation for, to, with, within and hopefully through each of us.

So, a picture…for the time away and within. Thanks for getting to this part of my blog.

Tight lines and Singing Reels,

Mark.

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About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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