What is more pitiful? Someone who has lots of time and finds nothing joyful to do with it? Or someone who has too little time and too many joyful things to do with what little he has of it? I would definitely find myself in the latter and at times find myself dumbfounded by the former. I would do anything to slow the spin of the earth just a little bit so that we could get a few more hours of daylight. Or rather, I would do anything to change the American work ethic so that it were nationally acceptable to work 6 hour days instead of 8+. I find myself loving to do far too many things and having less and less time to do them in. Whether it’s spending time with my family, having drinks with friends, going fishing, going hiking, or just getting a little bit of time to tie flies on the vise.
I found myself thinking about this the other day. Here it was, mid-September, and I was looking at weather forecasts several weeks ahead, comparing it with my schedule, and comparing that schedule with my wife’s schedule to see if I can go fishing until noon on a Sunday several weeks from now. It will likely be too soon for the Fall steelhead run but I’m just hoping that a few will squeak through after the rains between now and then. Mostly, I’m just looking forward to that time on the river. Fish or no fish. Just time to wander. Time to be out of time itself.
There have been many fishing trips where I’ve pushed the patience of my dear wife by losing track of time. It’s nothing I did intentionally. There’s something about the fresh air, the sounds of the woods intermingling with the steady push of water against my boots, and the slow, calculated, and repetitive motion of casting a fly to a feeding fish. Even when you’re fishing with someone else, you find yourself losing track of them. They could be 30 feet away from you but there are times where you’ll not say a word to each other for long periods. You almost forget they’re there. You lose yourself in the world around you. With that, you lose your sense of the passage of time. You find yourself imitating the water-worn stones and rocks of the river, keeping perfectly still and becoming indifferent to anything else than just being there.
Sappy and romantic, right? It’s true though, at least for me. I really feel I need that time outside of time. It allows me to sort of check out. Throughout my life I’ve had a lot of anxiety issues and I find myself constantly worrying about the people in my life, especially now as my family tries to recover from the loss of my Mother. Fly fishing is really the only time I have where I don’t have to think of any of that, and it’s infinitely valuable to me.
And it’s not that I don’t value the other things in my short list up there. I absolutely love spending time with my family. Guiding my daughter from one discovery to the next with my wife brings me more joy than anything else in this world. But even in that, I find myself in a constant state of worry. I worry for her safety, her development, and particularly lately, how such a young child grieves with the immense loss of someone so dear to her.
But now back to the time aspect of this. When I started my job back in November, I went from working a regular 8:30-4:30 shift Monday through Friday to a hodgepodge of mixed hours with my new job. It could be 8:30-5:30, 9:00-6:00, 1:00-9:00, and alternating Saturdays. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job. It’s the first time in my life I’ve felt really fulfilled by the work I do, but with it comes this rough schedule that makes it difficult to plan for anything else. Add to that, I’ve been working for my brother Mickey on his food truck at any available opportunity or helping him with catering events. It’s fun to work with my brother, but that’s just more time away from things I love. We need the money and there are few other alternatives.
The other day I mentioned to Andy that I wanted to get together to tie some flies and to talk about his recent trip to Alaska. He rightly pointed out that when that would happen would be entirely up to me because my schedule is so crazy. Hell, I’ve been trying to arrange a time to play basketball with my friend Jim from work for almost a month and we’re just now finding some time for that on Monday.
The busy schedule is mentally more manageable in the summer. The longer days allow for more time to spend with my family and the sometimes oppressive heat of a Cleveland summer leaves me less gung ho about getting on the river than I am in the Fall and Spring. And that remaining thirst for fishy things can be quenched by some time on my porch tying flies after my daughter is asleep. However, I find myself with a mix of anticipation and dread for the Fall and Spring. Anticipation for the fun of stalking steelhead, but dread at the effort required for maintaining a balance of time for myself and time for my family. And I find the windows of time for both being perpetually constricted by less meaningful things.
Of course I REALLY want to catch some fish, but mostly, I just want to be able to spend some time on the river so that I can forget the things that weigh me down. I just want to wander along the river bank, getting lost in my environment and the singular purpose of finding and catching beautiful fish. So a few weeks from now, I’ll get to spend a small chunk of time on the river. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’m truly looking forward to it. Fish or no fish. I find myself needing the river more than the catch.