Outdoorsman moved by still water

Aug. 04, 2014 @ 03:59 PM

The old john boat is young enough that it still floats. It is appropriately scarred and stained and scratched, and there are dents, too.

The fishing poles and the tackle box and the bucket and the brick with a length of string and the empty bottles of drink and wrappers and the broken paddle lay scattered about as these things do. The pond is calm and shaded, and the sky is blue and empty of clouds, now The rains that washed the gullies and filled the puddles and softened the dirt and leaked into the shed and gave rise to the creek are gone. The clouds chased to the east and the boat is facing the west, and with a gentle nudge you step inside with muddy feet and the clouds are now at your back.

The pond is calm. The ripples develop and melt slowly, and there is unsteadiness and a tangle and the bucket is turned over and the battery cables have a short and the trolling motor bangs hard against the boat, and there is now sweat on your brow. The pond is calm.

Eventually, the trolling motor hums to life. Eventually, the second rod is freed from the other three and the bucket is left to be displaced, and you turn the boat to the south, where the pond is deep and the cattails are tall and now the perspiration is less.

The pond is calm, and the infant-like propulsion of an old, scarred boat creates an occasional tickle upon this vessel, and the movement of ripples spreads far and away and they soon become part of this pond that is calm.

As is common, here, you fish. Within this boat you cast left and then right, and the trolling motor is silent because the short in the cord failed and the handle is broken on the paddle and despite a thought of wanting to move slowly along these cattails you fish.

The pond is calm.

Here you drift, and the boat is neither right nor left and doesn’t lean or stay still, and eventually you find a rhythm and the gnats ignore you and the bucket is upright and the sky becomes a steel-blue against boldly deep-greened trees and grass.

The pond is calm.

There is a bite here and a release of a bass there, and when the boat nears the leaning sugar-maple tree, you finagle the wire and the trolling motor hums again and the wheel spins and the boat eases forward, slow and soft.

The pond is calm.

Without care or convincing or concern for who it leaves behind and how cooperative the fish or how calm the water is now, the sun leaves this place and lowers her head to the west, and away from the clouds and these places for now. The motor spins and these final moments of light are enough to push this boat soft into the mud, where feet are muddied again. There are tangles again. The bucket turns over again. There’s the cord you vow to fix, knowing you won’t. And the boat you vow to paint, knowing you won’t. You face east, and the sky is still and so is your breath. This is where the frogs rehearse and the crickets play, where the pond is calm.

Enjoy your time outdoors.

You may reach outdoors columnist Jason Hawkins at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.