KEVIN TATE: Listening for wisdom down by the creek

KEVIN TATE

KEVIN TATE

Sometimes it’s time to go fishing no matter what time it is. Sometimes what you catch doesn’t show up for years.

“Get your fishing rods and let’s go,” the Old Man told us. It was early afternoon at the peak of summer and my brother and I were very much enjoying the air conditioning.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“The creek,” he answered in a tone that didn’t recommend further questioning, so we rounded up our gear and went.

Under a bright orange sun loamy soil and runoff sediment flaked into the water beneath our feet, such water as there was. The last rain had fallen in mid June and the calendar was making for late July. The creek was a shallow trickle, mostly confined to a stream drawn well away from the bank.

“When I was a boy we used to swim here,” the Old Man said.

For most of the hole’s width that day, the water might have been deep enough to wet your shoetops if you were patient. “Where should I fish?” I asked, looking for finer direction.

“In the water,” he said. This was to be a quiet afternoon.

I’ve turned that day over in my mind often in the many years since, wondering why we we were there. The Old Man eventually caught a couple – he had the type of skill I saw later in excellent bass anglers, an innate ability to make fish bite by force of will – but I suppose that wasn’t our real purpose.

Another of my Old Men once taught me to stop hiccups by holding my breath, a test of will that eventually causes all light to shrink to a singularity until there’s nothing left in the world but one brightly focused spot. The trick stops hiccups. It stops the background noise, too. There aren’t many other solutions like it but, in quiet spots where we lived happy moments in the past, that same focus can sometimes be found.

In places where wood ducks whistle and quiet waters roll by we can sometimes figure out who we are by remembering how we were, if only for a little while. As we greet a new year, I hope you’re able to return sometimes to your favorite quiet spots, to think and remember, to sit, to share and, mostly, just to breathe.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.