Monday, April 6, 2009

Catch and Release

There are many, many blessings involved in working a mere 2 miles from my house. The lone negative I can think of is that I rarely get to decompress after work or spend much time alone. Just like every other human, I occasionally need to be alone with my thoughts...or be alone and not require any thoughts.

There are few tasks that can be done with little thought but fishing happens to be on that list. Yesterday morning I had a chance to escape for a bit and do a little fishing. I knew of a new place I wanted to try and it ended up being absolutely gorgeous. More than one time yesterday I found myself standing on the bank and in my head I was living the Alabama version of "Legends of the Fall".

20 minutes had passed and I felt like Tristan when to my surprise I caught an Alabama Trout with my fly rod...OK, a little too much Tristan-like. I actually felt a strong tug on my Zebco bait-caster rod and reel combo. But the point is that my rod was bending like I had hook an alligator. In a minute or so I could see white belly of some fish beneath the water, his tail churning up the mud and swishing the water about with all of his might. Landing this monster on dry ground was imminent and I couldn't wait to see exactly what I had landed. My prize was just beneath the surface of the swells and whirlpools of water. When I finally pulled this thing out of his wet abode I was surprised. This wasn't a bass or crappie as I had anticipated. I caught a pretty large catchfish.

Only having a few minutes to fish yesterday and having some plans for later in the day I knew I wouldn't have time nor the inclination to skin this fish and fillet him. Plus, I am not enthusiastic about eating a scavenger fish caught in a river so I knew immediately that I would let him go. Catch and Release is popular among fishermen...especially when they have no plans of eating what they catch. This catfish started his day off in a rough way but his luck was about to get a bit better. So I stared at him once more and then tossed him back in. He looked at me as if to warn me of messing with him and then in a simple swish of his tail he was gone.

I fished a bit longer and then packed it all in and headed for the house. Once home I told my wife of my fishing adventures and she became excited about what I told her...which, by the way, had nothing to do with my catfish bounty...and she shared with me a section of a book she was finishing. The Same Kind of Difference As Me has really captivated my wife and I can't wait to read it myself. I don't usually discuss, much less blog about books I haven't read but in the case I suppose I can get away with it.

Essentially, and I must say that this is overly simplifying a beautiful story, one guy, who happens to be white, tells another man, who happens to be black, that he wants to be friends with him. Being skeptical, the black man says he will think about it. A week later the black man says he has thought about it and that something really bothers him about white people. He goes on to explain that he understands that white people "catch and release" fish. That practice blows his mind. He then contrasts that style to black people. Black people would never release a fish. In fact, they would take it around and show anyone that would listen or even possibly care their great catch, explains the black man. Then the fish would be cleaned and eaten. He explains that it is weird to him that a white man would put back or throw away the very thing that a black man would take pride in and would use to sustain him. After the analogy, the black simple tells the white man, "If you are lookin for a friend to catch and release I don't want no part. But if you ain't looking to catch and release then I will be your friend forever. Loyal."

That's an awesome story that really touches me. Being the introspective creature that I am I instantly began searching the numerous caverns of my soul for applicable situations in my life. The images of great friends that somehow...accidentally, circumstantially or otherwise...had been released. I recently learned of a friend from high school that took his own life and he came to mind. His name was Brian and his sister is Melissa. I couldn't help but thinking of the ways in which Melissa must feel that she was forced to release him and how much more painful loss is when the releasing aspect of "Catch and Release" isn't by choice.

Catch and Release can be beautiful but releasing is always difficult. Years ago when I witnessed the birth mothers of my adopted siblings handing them over to my family...unknown to them, I saw the beauty and pain of releasing first hand. To know that what we want and what is line up on different sides of life and knowing it is for the best always brings us to an impasse...a place where answers are void of significance and solace is found in hollow words.

What does it all mean and why does it matter anyway? If I can borrow some words from Kenny Rogers and twist them to fit my purposes here I think I can find some fact, it is a huge reason...why this matters. "You have to know when to hold'em. Know when to [release'em]". In this world I think we will one day live out a life of abundance or a life of regret based on how we choose the things we catch and release and the things we catch and keep. Obviously the release part isn't always up to us but in so far as releasing is up to us I want to live well.

May God also grant us all the wisdom and strength we need to treat life very differently from how "white people fish". I wonder if the next catfish I catch will be so lucky as the last one.

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