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Comfort and Joy

In these trying times, we’re all fishing for inner peace.

by R.A.D. Salmon

I’ve never believed that living alone was a bad thing. I live alone. I am capable, love my independence and crave my solitude. Every day is a blank slate ready to be filled with the colors of the world.

Enter March 2020 and my new Covid-19 living. I rallied. I tidied and organized my drawers, my cabinets and closets with KonMari skill. Days and weeks of independence and solitude passed as paint-by-number prints filled my walls and choruses of home-grown pink, yellow and orange zinnias filled my gardens. I had Zoom calls with my family and afternoons of binge watching my favorite TV series. I was adapting. I was following guidelines. I was masking up. I was socially distancing. I was alone and I was falling apart.

Then, much by chance, a friend invited me on a fishing outing. Fishing? Never tried it, don’t touch worms or slimy fish, but sure, I’m in. One afternoon of angling at the local pond turned into months of fishing together.

We talk as we fish. We talk as we ride our bikes through the wooded trails around the pond. We talk as we eat our brown bag picnic lunches by the water’s edge. We talk about growing up in families with just sisters, no brothers. We talk about our moms. We talk about life in college, first jobs, marriage and living in Jersey. We talk about our kids. We talk about retiring to Delaware and turning 60 soon. We talk about our dads and all the things they tried to teach us.

Bob, my friend’s dad, taught her to fish. He taught her how to chop up night crawlers into just the right size pieces of bait. He taught her how to free a tangled fishing line and how to unhook a fresh catch. We have a pair of Bob’s original pliers in our fishing bucket. We also have a pair of industrial grade tweezers from Ed’s (my dad’s) toolbox that she uses to spear the pieces of worm onto our hooks. My novice fishing ability and my daydreams frequently get me into snarls with tree branches and pond vegetation. Unphased, she uses her “Bob Technique” to free my line and keep me going. Yes, I am a handful.

Yesterday, taking full advantage of unseasonably mild December temperatures, we headed to the pond. Our familiar routine carried us through the day—biking, picnicking and the best part, fishing. The pond, typically full of life and activity, stood sleepy and still. There was an eerie silence with only an occasional call or honk from a passing Canada goose piercing the quiet. We were quiet, too. Casting and reeling, we sat on the dock together hoping for a motivated blue gill or sunny to tug a line, sadly realizing that winter would be stealing our cherished pond days away from us soon.

As reliable as the changing seasons, I get my fishing line caught in the low branches of a bald cypress tree.

“It doesn’t look too bad,” I say.

“Yeah, all we need is a kayaker to come by and untangle it for us,” she replies.

We both laugh because today there’s not a kayaker, boater or fellow angler in sight.

“Let me try the Bob Technique,” she says. “Maybe I can wiggle it loose.”

Then we hear a splash. We turn to see an older man in a fishing kayak paddling toward us. I’m not sure if it is a look of fright or relief that he sees on our faces.

“How’s the fishing,” he says, smiling.

“Not too good. I have my fishing line caught in the tree,” I answer.

“Can I help you out?” he asks. He maneuvers towards the tree and little by little untangles my line.

“There you go,” he says. “Good luck to you,” and he rows away and out of view.

We look at each other and in unison ask, “Where did he come from?”

“I have no idea,” I reply. You said “All we need is a kayaker to come by and untangle our line and he appeared. Out of nowhere, he just appeared.

Must have been your dad, Bob, your angel; he knew we needed more than just his technique to get us out of this debacle,” I laugh.

“No,” she answers, “it was your dad, Ed, your angel, taking care of you, because you need it!” We laugh so loud we are sure the fish can hear us.

“All we need is a kayaker and there he was,” we echo back and forth in disbelief of what just happened. Side by side, we continue to fish for another hour or so looking for any sign of our angelic helper. Nothing. The pond is empty. It is only us. I shift myself to the end of the dock and out of tangle range.

“All we need is each other, this pond and an angel to help us,” I say to my friend.

An overwhelming feeling of comfort envelops me. My shoulders shudder as I blink away tears. I lift my face into the last rays of afternoon sun, close my eyes and exhale a long, deep, breath of joy.