The Power of Silence

May 14, 2008
By Maura Zindler, Glen Ellyn, IL

With worms swimming through my fingers, and the boat rocking, I was right at home. Dusk was sweeping across the Michigan lake, leaving only traces of pink in the sky and water. My Dad was casting off into the dark still water, both of us were silent as we listened to the forlorn call of a loon. I tried not to wince as I put the worm on my hook and listened to the plop it made when casted off, its ripples grew in the deep jade water. Not talking seemed alright, most of the time it was for us. The silence filled the place of our useless words. There wasn't a single sound around, nothing. It made life so clear and simple.

A quick tug on my line snapped me back to fishing, and I hated being cheated of a worm. Reeling it in, I thought about my father, and his grandfather, on a small Pennsylvania lake, where he learned all the tricks to lure fish in. All those rules and tips, now passed down to me, I realized. Bass was our favorite catch because they’re quick minded and a tough one to reel in, so we usually stilled the boat near deeper, weedy areas of the lake. A grin stretched across my face as I thought of all those suckers we'd tossed up on the boat years earlier, all those moments of surprise, as the fish tries to swim off with your worm. Of course there were the times of coming home in the dark of night, and not a fish at hand as you tie up the boat. But fishing isn't about bringing home mounds of food; it’s the experience of hovering above such a great expanse of water, and really feeling like you're a part of it. Fishing is all about the silence.

As I expected, my hook resurfaced empty, and annoyance prickled within me to capture the thief. With another long cast off, I considered all the fish it could be, and my mind drifted of with the waves once more. To the times I've spent sprawled on the floor flipping through the fishing handbook from my Dad's old fishing box. There were so many different kinds, some with ornate flecks and shimmery stripes, or others with slick black scales, and gleaming orange eyes. So many different fish, all living in the same water. It made me think how people in a way can be just like fish. We go about our lives, choosing different paths and rivers to follow in the end, finding ourselves where we belong.

I looked at my Dad now as the worm and hook sunk deeper into the shadows of the peaceful water. His brown eyes watched the spin of the currents under a baseball cap that was always there. In a T-Shirt and shorts, my father looked like himself, the relaxed and well humored person he was. The skin on his face revealed hardly any age, but the scar under his chin showed his childhood mischievous adventures. Funny how clear and sharp his face seemed to me out on the water, as if someone had cleaned off the glass that I view my world through. A day fishing was never complete without him there. On that rickety white rowboat, I learned more about my father than I had anywhere else.

Another sharp tug reeled me back into, and I could feel the line trembling with life on the other end. Waiting a few seconds, I skillfully began to reel it in, and could feel the swerves and pulls of the fish's escapes. He surfaced the water with a sharp splash, and I grabbed the clear line with my hand as I pulled the small mouth bass closer to me. His gills pushed air in and out, as he flexed his forest green scales in the darkness. My Dad took the hook out of his jaw with a quick swipe, and I looked into those burning goldenrod eyes. Fear fill every inch of the fish and I suddenly felt such sympathy for it, so slowly I dipped my hand into the dense water, and released the bass to its freedom. So what if it stole a worm, it had a life in the water and I wouldn’t take it away.

We came home with nothing to grill. But I think we were okay with that for today. Something about the whole essence of fishing makes things not so bad when you step onto the dock afterwards. As if the waves and the breeze make all your worries slink away. Turning around and gazing across the starry eyed water and dark mountains, my father concluded,” Good Fishing", I smiled back in the velvety darkness, "Yah, good fishing".

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