This year, I needed to be outside more than ever because I spent more time than ever inside, alone, staring at a Brady Bunch grid of faces on a screen. Fishing was more than a hobby, it was a salve — and, when no vaccine was available, my only treatment.
We all had home office lockdown cabin fever this year. We all have stared at the same four walls. We all have watched the numbers climb and, if you're like me, you have wondered: what can I do? When the best answer is staying home, the kinetic equivalent of nothing, I struggle. Ask my wife.
One day, when I was pouring sweat from splitting and stacking wood from a tree I had just felled with the chainsaw I had recently purchased, I realized that I was converting inner fire into a form of productive energy we would burn in the fireplace. That it took the clamor of a 2 cycle engine to bring clarity to my head says something about the cacophony of this year. I sought to split energy out of a tree, and found it actually cleared the energy stored in me.
Saltwater fishing accomplishes much the same: The full throb of a headache from the 4:30 am alarm after a few too many DIPAs and a cigar the night before; ducking the cold ocean spray under the rising sun on the run out to the spot; the silver filling shaking rat-a-tat-tat of the hull riding the top of the chop as we motor to the slap-dash aerial swirl of distant birds; the unrelenting rocking, the constant searching, and — wham! — the reward, the dopamine hit, the rinse and repeat.
My mind? Clear and focused, a world away from those four walls.
On this day on the Cape, if you looked at the navigation system at the end of the day, our GPS track wound from Falmouth to Peniskee to the Vineyard. We found lots of birds, few boats, and a mix of stripers and blues on the surface. At one point, with a calm sea and the engine off, the sound of the fish on the surface was like a retreating ocean wave over a beach of rocks: a steady wall of natural sound. I found it so relaxing and intoxicating that I laughed out loud.
When I look back on a year that took so much from so many, I am grateful to have been healthy and employed. I am grateful that those I hold close have also been safe and healthy. I am grateful for a brighter future. And, funny as it may seem, I am grateful for moments like this on the water.
The clatter and cold, sound and speed cleared my head and focused my mind.
The unrelenting rocking recentered me.
And the blues and stripes reconnected me to the world beyond these four walls — one worth fighting for, and one worth waiting for.
Here are some photos from the day.
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