Archive for the ‘The Environment’ Category

Book Recommendation: Moving Water, by Dave Hall

January 5, 2019

Many anglers are attracted to the aesthetic aspects of fly fishing. I refer not only to the spiritual or contemplative qualities of the pursuit, written about so often by Isaac Walton and others. Nor do I refer simply to the careful study or, in some cases, apprenticeship required for one to fish well–a phenomenon that is also written about extensively. Rather, I refer primarily to the sense of beauty, experienced visually and otherwise, in the places we fish. Sometimes, of course, this sense of beauty intersects with the spiritual. Indeed, over five centuries ago, the author of The Treatyse of Fyshingn wyth an Angle told us that smelling the flowers and listening to the melodies of the birds along the river bank, and even catching the occasional fish. is good for the “health of our body and soul.”

But this beauty is not easily conveyed in words or other images. Occasionally, however, someone succeeds in doing so.  For instance, I have previously written about my appreciation of friend Claudiu Presecan’s paintings. Today, I write about the work of Dave Hill, who lives in the Rocky Mountain West. Hall is a rare individual, who has been able to capture the beauty of the places we fish in brushstrokes as well as words. He shares both in his new book, Moving Water: an Artist’s Reflections on Fly Fishing, Friendship, and Family (Blaine Creek, 2019).

Moving Water is a hardbound book with dust-jacket, that includes both single-page and full-spread, color reproductions of Hall’s paintings. Many of these depict the Yellowstone area of the American West. Along with the paintings are autobiographical reflections upon Hall’s life.
Hall’s paintings are both ethereal and very realistic, at the same time. Thus, they convey the sense of beauty that I describe above. In the paintings, anyone familiar with the West, or similar landscapes in other parts of the world, will recognize their own experiences of such beauty immediately. Because the written narrative accompanying the pictures is rather poetic, the words complement the pictures perfectly, and they provide an understanding of who Hall is, how his family influenced him, what his friends and fellow anglers were like, and so on. As a result, the words, along with the familiarity conveyed by the paintings, almost make you feel as if you are reacquainting yourself with an old friend, in the shape of Hall.

Rather than share my own, inevitably poor photographs of Hall’s work, I share an image from the artist’s website. This painting is featured in the book, and it is titled “Dawn on the Henry’s Fork.” It is one of my favorites.

I urge you to visit the Dave Hall Landscape Art to see more paintings. And you should visit Dave Hall’s Moving Water to learn more about his book and to place an order. You can also order postcards, posters, and more.
Hall’s paintings really do capture the Montana and Idaho with which I am acquainted; I can almost smell the flowers and hear the melodies of the birds, as recommended by the Treatyse’s author, just by looking at Hall’s paintings. Take a look; you may feel the same.

Steelhead Spirituality

December 9, 2018

Lately, in Idaho, the volume of debates about how best to address the decline of wild steelhead in the Clearwater River and connected waterways (or whether to address it at all) has grown significantly. This is a good thing, in my mind, though of course I wish there was no question we would make the necessary sacrifices to protect them. Some of the loudest voices in this debate come from guides and others whose commercial ventures focus on steelhead fishing.

The Native Americans who have historically depended upon the steelhead and other anadromous fish are also rightfully vocal. Their dependence, I should emphasize, extends beyond their subsistence needs. Their cultural identities and spiritual lives are also tied to the fish. Most tribes pass down ancient stories in which this dependence is established, via agreements with the fish or their creator, that humans will care for the fish in return for the latter giving their lives to humans. The resulting reciprocal relationships feature heavily in ceremonies and other practices. The revered Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) elder Elmer Crow, explained this in a short film he made for Idaho Rivers United. The Clearwater, as I’m sure many readers know, flows through the Nez Perce Reservation.

We rarely hear Non-Native fishers describe their relationship to salmon and steelhead as spiritual. Yet, an Idaho angler and guide named Jerry Meyers did just that in a column, entitled “A Spiritual Loss,” for the Idaho Falls Post Register this fall. I have posted the column in its entirety below, and I urge you to read it.

 

A Spiritual Loss

by Jerry Myers, Post Register guest columnist. Sep 27, 2018

I am an Idaho salmon and steelhead angler edging into my sixth decade. What I am witnessing this year feels uncomfortably similar to the despair of the mid-1970’s and early 1990’s.

Wild steelhead and Chinook salmon counts are back near their desperately low post-dam-building numbers. Having spent 40 years advocating for wild fish in Idaho rivers, it can be depressing to yet again be wading into the same turbulent political and economic waters. The current discussion about Idaho’s salmon and steelhead future is centered largely on costs related to loss of fish and fishing opportunity, loss of electricity, loss of commodities transportation via barging, loss of biological diversity and loss of habitat.

Jerry Myers

Much less discussion is taking place regarding the spiritual value of these fish and related spiritual values that fishing opportunity provides to Idahoans like my family. What part of ourselves would be lost if salmon are allowed to slip away?

Perhaps older white guys like myself should not be engaged in attempting to explain the spiritual significance of what these fish mean. After all, our Native American brothers and sisters have taken on that role since Euro Americans first laid eyes on the inconceivably bountiful runs of the Northwest.

While it would be difficult for me to understand and accurately interpret Native Americans’ relationship to salmon, let me attempt to explain the spiritual relationship I have to these fish from the sea, and why wild steelhead are such a bone-deep part of our lives.

My parents were small Palouse-area farmers and ranchers who worked very hard to give their five kids a decent upbringing. Decent upbringing included understanding our responsibility to the land, have respect and awe for wildlife, wild places and respect for others.

My parents were generally in favor of building the Port of Lewiston and the four lower Snake River dams which made a seaport in Idaho possible. Their wheat got to Portland cheaper on barges and so each bushel we took off the farm became that much more valuable. More in the bank to feed and clothe a family.

Crop transportation costs still remain the main economic issue for farmers when it comes to barging grain to Portland. But farmers do not pay all the actual costs of barging. The taxpayer also contributes significantly by subsidizing the economic and environmental costs associated with the lower Snake dams.

I saw my first steelhead as a young lad walking along the creek that ran through our ranch. Seeing a fish the size of my leg which appeared like a ghost in a small turbid pool was one of those life-altering events.

When my Dad retired from farming and cattle ranching, he again took up steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River with a zealot’s focus. Free from the time constraints that farming and child-rearing require, he spent days, often by himself, chasing steelhead. I still cherish those too few days when we fished together and talked about many things that we had only argued about in the earlier, trying years of the 60’s and 70’s. Fishing was the neutral zone. I took my future wife steelhead fishing with Dad in the late 70’s, and we landed four steelhead that day.

We started our own river guiding business in 1982 and started our family a year later. Our two kids were largely raised on the river and became guides as soon as they reached 18. We fished together constantly, commiserated during the low-fish-run years and celebrated the stronger runs. Fishing fed our family both directly and indirectly through guiding wages. Our five grandkids, all under age 7, are already steelhead fishing veterans. Nothing excites them more than watching steelhead spawn in our nearby creek. They too are gaining a passion for wild creatures and wild places.

Our story is not that different than many Idaho families who also share our passion for fishing, hunting and exploring Idaho’s special places. I can’t fathom an Idaho that no longer has wild steelhead nor the collective will to fight to protect them.

I struggle to find words to accurately describe to others what these fish mean to us. How do we defend a spiritual need for wild things within an economic argument? We simply cannot assign a value to that innate part of ourselves that needs wildlife and wild fish, and we should never attempt to do so.

Salmon have been a part of the Northwest for many thousands of years, and I cannot conceive that within my lifetime we have gone from relative abundance to near extinction.

I find my faith in places where wild steelhead swim. It is here, in those places, that our family experiences beauty, an appreciation and empathy for those creatures nonhuman, a sense of humbleness in a natural world of which we are just a part. If we lose wild steelhead and salmon, we lose a part of our connectedness to our Creator, because our family believes they are part of the same.

______________________________________________________________________

Jerry Myers was born and raised on a farm/ranch near Genesee, Idaho. He has been an licensed Idaho river and fishing guide since 1977 and, with his wife Terry, has lived on the Salmon River for 40 years.

A.A. Luce on “The Fisherman,” by W.B. Yeats.

October 27, 2018

Yeats in 1908. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Irish poet William Butler Yeats, winner of the 1923 Nobel prize in literature, published “The Fisherman” in 1919. In the poem, Yeats describes his past observation of a fly fisherman. In his memory, this man represents a simple life, free from the daily pressures most of us face. No doubt, Yeats faced serious pressures, indeed; when he wrote “The Fisherman,” he was already a successful poet and felt many demands upon his time and talents. And he had been deeply involved in Irish nationalism and would immerse himself in politics again, in the future.
I share the poem, below. Following it is commentary upon its meaning by A.A. Luce. Importantly, Luce was a philosopher and a fly fisher, himself.
“The Fisherman”
Although I can see him still—
The freckled man who goes
To a gray place on a hill
In gray Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies—
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped it would be
To write for my own race
And the reality:
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,
The insolent unreproved—
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer—
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,
The clever man who cries
The catch cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.
Maybe a twelve-month since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man,
And his sun-freckled face
And gray Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark with froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream—
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, “Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.
A.A. Luce, as a professor at Trinity College Dublin, was a colleague and acquaintance of Yeats’. In his remarkable Fishing and Thinking (Swan Hill, 1959), he wonders why Yeats chose to write about an angler:
Why did he pitch on angling, of all occupations? Why did he idealize the angler? It could not have been an accident. He must have found something in his own angling that answered a felt need. Was it objectivity, the sense of control by the object? The artistic imagination is in special need of such control and values it. When one’s sense of reality is perturbed, and the line between the real and the imaginary wavers, and perhaps the point approaches when “nothing is but what is not”, a day on a river is wonderful cure. It takes us out of ourselves, and confronts us with the comforting blank wall of something not ourselves, and confronts us with the comforting blank wall of something not ourselves, to which our sensing, imagining, thinking and action must conform. The sanity of the angler’s outlook commends angling to the sick in mind.  …. The fresh air, the open spaces, the physical exercise, the nature of the occupation and the objectivity of the chase combine to make angling a sedative and a general tonic for the occupational dis-ease of the man of letters. (83)
I like Yeats’ poem, despite what feels to me like a bit of whining on its author’s part. I have faced my share of challenges, but my life is filled with blessings. One of them is the fact that I can fish regularly. As Luce suggests and perhaps as Yeats felt too, I find “the real” when I fish or otherwise spend time free from many of expectations and requirement placed upon me by those with whom I have very little meaningful connection. I was interested to hear a guest lecturer in my angling literature course say much the same thing this last week, and I wonder how many others feel the same. Regardless, I look forward to a good sleep and to experiencing reminders of what is “real’ tomorrow on the stream.
Addendum (11/5/18):  I found mention of Yeats in this essay on occult bookstores, published this morning, to be intriguing: “Reading the Occult,” by Neil Armstrong.

Another year, another Angling Literature Syllabus

August 20, 2018

Following is this semester’s syllabus for my angling literature course. Suggestions are always welcome (as are visitors).

 

Religion, Sport, and Water: Contemplation and Play in “Nature”

HONORS 380.3, Fall 2018
Class Time: TU,TH 9:10 AM-10:25 PM
Class Location: Todd Hall 324
Professor: Ken Lokensgard
Office: Plateau Center for Native American Programs, Cleveland 23A
Phone: 509-335-1055
E-mail: kenneth.lokensgard@wsu.edu
Office Hours: TU,TH 10:30 AM-12:00 PM and by appointment.

Depiction of Juliana Berners. Lithograph by William Nicholson, 1898.

 DESCRIPTION AND GOALS OF COURSE

 This course is an introduction to the literary history, religious significance, and socio-cultural impact of fishing.  Students will read historically and culturally important texts ranging from those written in Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and in contemporary North America.  All of these texts emphasize a relationship between religious experience, fishing, and the environment.  We will explore this relationship, considering the cultural settings of each text while also learning about the overlapping aesthetic, ritual, and ecological dimensions ascribed to fishing—particularly fly fishing—by some of the most notable writers and intellectuals in European and Euro-American history.  For comparisons’ sake, we will briefly examine religion and fishing in cultures outside of the European and North American literary worlds, as well.  In addition to fishing literature, students will read relevant theoretical texts on religious experience, conservation, ecology, “play,” and “nature.”

As a whole, this course will serve as a focused study of the role that the extra-human environment and religious practice play in European, North American, and other cultural contexts.  Thus, the course will introduce students to literature and ways of thinking that can be applied to any implicitly or explicitly religious phenomena that are practiced in so-called “natural” places.  Moreover, the course will introduce students to the often religious significance that conservation and other ecologically informed practices play in the lives of many contemporary people.

This course is both reading and writing intensive.  Most of the readings, however, were originally written for a popular audience.  Also, the writing assignments will allow the student to incorporate his or her own, carefully examined reactions to these readings in his or her papers and essays.  Therefore, this class is intended to be entertaining and engaging.  Yet, it is designed for the student who is willing to consider religion within its broadest contours, who can devote concerted time to readings, and who is willing to engage in regular and thoughtful writing.  If you are not such a student, then, this course is not designed for you.

The following table identifies specific learning goals (“LG”) to be achieved by the student:

  At the end of this course, students should be able to: This objective will be evaluated primarily by: Assignments and Activities  advancing students toward these learning goals:
LG1 Demonstrate a firm command of the theories used to explain the social significance of play. Classroom discussions, reaction papers, and essay exams. Readings and discussion of important anthropological, philosophical, and religious studies theories (weeks 2, 5, 9, 12).
LG2 Think critically about the concept of “nature” and its construction in Euro-American thought. Classroom discussions, reaction papers, and essay exams. Readings and discussions of anthropological literature, the views of angling authors, and reflections upon Euro-American ontology (weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15).
LG3 Analyze the religious significance that many people ascribe to activities that take place outside the confines of “conventional” religion. Classroom discussions and final paper.  Readings about and discussions of  ritual, religious experience, and “religion” (weeks 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

Please note that Washington State University is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its faculty, staff, and students. Safety is the responsibility of every member of the campus community and individuals should know the appropriate actions to take when an emergency arises. In support of our commitment to the safety of the campus community the University has developed a Campus Safety Plan, http://safetyplan.wsu.edu. It is highly recommended that you visit this web site as well as the University emergency management web site at http://oem.wsu.edu/ to become familiar with the information provided.

ASSIGNED READINGS and OTHER RESOURCES

Required Books:

Walton, Izaak and Charles Cotton, ed. Marjorie Swann, The Compleat Angler (New York: Oxford University Press, USA: World’s Classics, 2014).
Maclean, Norman, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).
Duncan, David James, The River Why (New York: Back Bay Books, 2016)

Other readings are listed in the tentative schedule and will be accessible online, via the course’s Blackboard site. These readings include excerpts from the following:

Luce, A.A., Fishing and Thinking (Shrewsbury, UK: Swan Hill Press, 2002).
Snyder, Sam, Borgelt, Bryon, Tobey, Elizabeth, Backcasts: A Global History of Fly Fishing and Conservation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 2016).

Films, Guest Lectures, and other activities will serve as important resources. 

The films are listed in the tentative schedule, below. Informal guest lectures will be delivered by regional artists, authors, and anglers at dates to be announced.  Each guest will address the aesthetic and “spiritual” dimensions of fly fishing, from his or her perspective as a craftsperson or author. We will also visit the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections reading room to examine exceptionally rare editions of texts read or discussed in class, which are part of the Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Collection. Among these texts are several first and other 17th c. editions of The Compleat Angler.

Please note this course is designed to help students develop their critical reading and writing skills. Specific methods of critical reading and writing will be discussed in class at opportune times.  You are also strongly encouraged to make use of the instructor’s office hours and of the Undergraduate Writing Center in Smith CUE 303.

REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING

Four three-page critical reaction papers will be submitted throughout the semester. Papers should be written in a 12 point font with 1 inch margins.  Each of these papers is worth 5 percent of your total grade (5 points each).  There will be two exams, which will include short answer and essay questions.  Each exam is worth 20 percent of the total course grade (20 points each).  Toward the end of the semester, a twelve-page paper, analyzing the treatment of religion in at least three of the assigned readings, or in three texts dealing with other “outdoor” practices sometimes characterized as religious (I will provide a bibliography), must be submitted.  This paper is worth 30 percent of your total grade (30 points). Ten points are reserved for attendance.  Attendance will be taken randomly 10 times during the semester; an unexcused absence during any of these days will result in the loss of one point.  See the tentative schedule, below, for due dates and exam dates.

An accumulated 93 or more total points for the course will result in a final “A” grade (“A+” and “D-“ letter grades are not awarded at WSU).

90-92pts = A-

87-89 pts = B+

83-86 pts = B

80-82 pts = B-

77-79 pts = C+

73-76 pts = C

70-72 pts = C-

67-69 pts = D+

60-66 pts = D

0-59 pts = F

Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY and EXPECTATIONS

Academic integrity is absolutely required in this course. Any student caught cheating, in any way, will fail the course and be reported to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability. Cheating is defined by Washington State Academic Code ((WAC 504-26-010 (3).) It is strongly suggested that you read and understand the definitions.

In this writing intensive course, you should be particularly mindful of avoiding plagiarism. Plagiarism is defined in WAC 504-26-010 (3i) as follows:

Plagiarism is presenting the information, ideas, or phrasing of another person as the student’s own work without proper acknowledgment of the source. This includes submitting a commercially prepared paper or research project or submitting for academic credit any work done by someone else. The term “plagiarism” includes, but is not limited to, the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment. It also includes the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.

All written assignments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on the day they are due. To do this, upload your paper as a document file in the “assignments” section of the course’s Blackboard site. The title of your file should be “HONORS 380.3 Paper #–your first and last name” (e.g., HONORS 380.3 Paper 1–Juliana Berners).  Please put your name on the first page of the document itself, as well.  Late assignments will not be accepted unless prior arrangements are made or if a documentable emergency occurs.

Midterm Exam Date: Oct. 2.

Final Exam Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

TENTATIVE WEEKLY SCHEDULE

 Week 1: August 21 and 23.

Academic Integrity, the Academic Study of Religion, and Religion as a Lived, Social Phenomenon.

Readings: Snyder, “Wading through the History of Angling’s Evolving Ethics” (online).

Film: Prosek, The Complete Angler.

Week 2: August 28 and 30.

Water, Humanity, and Other-Than-Human Worlds.

Readings: Turner, “Liminality and Communitas,” (online); Harvey, “Signs of Life and Personhood” (online).

Week 3: September 4 and 6.

Ancient and Medieval European Fishing, Monasticism, Sustenance, and Leisure.

Readings: Hoffman, “Trout and Fly, Work and Play, in Medieval Europe (online); Berners, “The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle” (online); James, excerpt from “Mysticism” (online).

Paper 1 Due Sept. 4.

Week 4: September 11 and 13.

King Arthur’s Knights, Celtic and Anglo Saxon Fishing, and England.

Readings: Walton, The Compleat Angler (Part I, ch’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, 21).

Visit to MASC.

Week 5: September 18 and 20.

The Enlightenment, Play, and the Escape to Nature.

Readings: Cotton, The Compleat Angler (Part II, letters, “Retirement,” skim ch’s 5-12).

Week 6: September 25 and 27.

The Americas, Natural Law, and Romanticism.

Readings: Seecombe, “Business and Diversion” (online).

Paper 2 Due Sept. 25.

Week 7: October 2 and 4.

Midterm Exam (Oct. 2).

No class Sept. 4.

Week 8: October 9 and 11.

The Americas, Romanticism v. Reality.

Hemingway, “Big Two-Hearted River” (online).

Week 9: October 16 and 18.

Fishing, Religion, and Relationship.

Readings: Luce, ch’s 1-6, Fishing and Thinking (online

Paper 3 Due Oct. 16.

Week 10: October 23 and 25.

Fishing, Relationship, and Ethics.

Readings: Luce, ch’s 7-12, Fishing and Thinking (online).

Week 11: October 30 and November 1.

Lived Religion, Map, and Territory.

Readings: Maclean, A River Runs Through It.

Week 12: November 6 and 8.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism, and Ecology.

Readings:  Duncan, The River Why.

Paper 4 Due.

Week 13: November 13 and 15.

Lived Religion, Nature Mysticism,and Ecology.

Readings: Duncan, The River Why;

Week 14: November 20 and 22.

Native American and other Religious Views of Water, Fish, and Fishing.

Readings: Lokensgard, “From Serpents to Fly Fishers: Changing Attitudes in Blackfeet Country toward Fish and Fishing” (online).

No class Nov. 20 and 22. 

Week 15: November 27and 29.

 No class: Thanksgiving Break       

Week 16: December 4 and 6.

Religion, “Nature,” and the Environment.

Film: A River runs Through It.

Analytic Paper Due: December 7 by 11:59 PM.

 Final Exam Date and Time: Thursday, Dec. 13, 10:10 am – 12:10 pm.

 

Copyright 2018 Kenneth H. Lokensgard

In the Name of the River

July 22, 2018

The waters symbolize the universal sum of virtualities; they are fons et origo, “spring and origin,” the reservoir of all the possibilities of existence; they precede every form and support every creation.

Mircea Eliade, Romanian Historian of Religion. From the Sacred and Profane: The Nature of Religion, translated by William Trask (Harcourt, 1957) 130.

Summer sometimes involves trips to Hungary, where my wife grew up. Sometimes I fish there, near my brother-in-law’s house, on the Danube or on a little-known trout stream. Other times, I visit friends in Transylvania to fish much deeper in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania

Claudiu Presecan, whom I have introduced to readers before, is one of these friends in Romania. Claudiu is a devoted fly fisher, as well as an artist. He cares deeply about the environment from which he draws artistic and spiritual inspiration. Some time ago, he made a short video sharing the beauty and potential threats to one of his favorite rivers, the Somesul Rece.

Understandably, the environmental concerns most of us have revolve around places and issues in our own regions. It is good to remember, however, that people in other parts of the world have similar concerns about their own regions. Just as we have come to view the land as an ecosystem, we should view humans similarly (after all, we are part of the ecosystem). Our rivers ultimately mingle through the aquifers and oceans, and our humanity mingles as we drink from or fish those same waters. So, take a look at Claudiu’s video about the Somesul Rece and remember that our fights to preserve the health of the world extend far beyond our own home waters.

You can see Claudiu’s paintings, including a series also titled ‘In the Name of the River,’ at ClaudiuPresecan.Com. He will also be showing his work in Seattle this fall. If your interest in art does not extend much beyond tackle, you might take a look at the rods built by his friend Paul Sas, of Xander Flyrods. Paul also hand makes lures, knives, and, I’m sure, much more. Paul and another angler, Dr. Mihai Vasilescue, appear in Claudiu’s movie.

Home Again

June 1, 2018

IMG_0029

University Angling Literature Honors Course

April 25, 2018

Next year, I am happily offering my course on angling literature and culture again. I look forward to sharing some thoughts, as the students and I move through some great texts and discussions together. It’s a great pleasure to teach this course here at Washington State University, where we have a huge collection of fishing and other field sports literature.

Lokensgard Honors '18

Shrinking Salmon

March 1, 2018

All fly fishers have seen the old black-and-white photos of long-gone anglers, displaying the giant salmon they just caught. KUOW, a radio station serving western Washington and Southern British Columbia, has produced a news story that helps explain why we rarely see salmon of that size today. It came to my attention through the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Department of Environmental Protection. You can read or listen to the story at the following link.

http://kuow.org/post/why-don-t-you-see-people-sized-salmon-anymore

International Handwriting Day

January 23, 2018

Today is International Handwriting Day. Like many such holidays, I suspect it was created by marketers. Of course, the marketers’ greatest innovation of the modern era must be “disposability.” As manufacturers were able to produce cheaper products from less durable materials, the sellers of these products convinced consumers that the less expensive versions were “convenient.” This was because consumers could simply discard the products after a short period of time and then purchase brand new ones. Sure, these disposable products were a bit cheaper for the consumer, but their replacement costs would soon outstrip the costs of higher quality versions.

One of the most common of these “convenient” products is the disposable pen. In my world–academia–these are everywhere. You can find used pens on desks, on classroom floors, and obviously in the garbage.  This adds up to a lot of discarded plastic that will never be recycled.

On International Pen Day, you might consider switching to a refillable pen or even a good old-fashioned wood-cased pencil (biodegradable wood and recyclable tin erasure ferrule). Kaweco, a German company, offers quality fountain, ballpoint, and roller ball pens, as well as mechanical pencils, at affordable prices. The popular Kaweco “Sport” fountain pen–a small, durable “pocket” pen– has been around for over one hundred years.  A new one will run you twenty to twenty-five dollars, and it will last a long, long time. If you use a felt-tip highlighter pen, consider switching to a highlighter pencil. The one pictured below is a “Wood Note” pencil from the Japanese pencil-maker Kita-boshi. You can find many other highlighter pencils online.

If you are like me, you care about the impact that you have upon the earth and it’s inhabitants. You want that impact to be positive. Avoiding disposable products and using longer-lasting and/or biodegradable products is an easy way of at least making your impact less negative. A nice pen might even motivate you to improve your handwriting, create a poem, send a letter to someone you love, or do some other thing that will impact others positively.

Ink

Noodler’s “El Lawrence” ink and Kaweco “Sport” fountain pens.

Pen

Kita-boshi pencils and Kaweco Skyline Sport.

Help

December 29, 2017

Most of us have friends, who have found themselves in dark places. Sometimes the reasons our friends are in such situations are obvious–the reasons are “environmental,” psychologists might say. Other times, our friends are lost for more complex reasons. Occasionally, we can still identify some causes–grief, trauma, mental illness, or a combination of these and other things.

Regardless, we want to help our friends find their way out of the darkness. Sometimes, a gift of money or even just emotional support can provide our friends the nudge they need to find the right direction. But other times, especially in the more complex cases, we just don’t know what to offer. And when we finally find something, we aren’t sure if it will be of use.

Time spent out-of-doors is what often gets me through the rough patches in life. Such time helps me reorient, to find my bearings, and to continue on through the difficult terrain waiting for me at work, home, or wherever. Not surprisingly then, when friends are disoriented and depressed, I often suggest they spend some time away from their busy lives. In many cases I suggest they go fly fishing.

In the great semi-autobiographical novella, A River Runs through It, we find author Norman Maclean struggling throughout the story to help his brother, Paul. Paul Maclean is troubled by an apparent gambling addiction and perhaps by alcoholism. At one point, Norman discusses this problem with his father. Readers will recall that the father, John, is a Presbyterian minister in Missoula, Montana. Like his sons, he is also a flyfisher. Indeed, he taught his two sons to fish. The following passage describes the discussion between Norman and his father. Norman, of course, is the narrator.

He went to the door and looked out and when he came back he didn’t ask me any questions. He tried to tell me. He spoke in the abstract, but he had spent his life fitting abstractions to listeners so that listeners would have no trouble fitting his abstractions to the particulars of their lives.

“You are too young to help anybody and I am too old,” he said. “By help I don’t mean a courtesy like serving chokecherry jelly or giving money.”

“Help,” he said, “is giving part of yourself to somebody who comes to accept it willingly and needs it badly.

“So it is,” he said, using an old homiletic transition, “that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed. It is like the auto-supply shop over town where they always say, “Sorry, we are just out of that part.”

I told him, “You make it too tough. Help doesn’t have to be anything that big.”

He asked me, “Do you think your mother helps him by buttering his rolls?”

“She might,” I told him. “In fact, yes, I think she does.”

“Do you think you help him?” he asked me.

“I try to,” I said. “My trouble is I don’t know him. In fact, on of my troubles is that I don’t even know whether he needs help. I don’t know, that’s my trouble.”

“That should have been my text,” my father said. “We are willing to help, Lord, but what if anything is needed?

“I still know how to fish,” he concluded. “Tomorrow we will go fishing with him.”

(Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 81-82).

So, Norman and the Rev. John Maclean give “parts of themselves” to John and go fishing. They give their time, their passion, and their love as family members and fishermen. In the story, Norman indicates that this fishing trip was meaningful to all. Perhaps it was helpful, too. However, it was not so helpful that Paul was able find a path away from his troubles. In the story, he is beaten to death at Lolo Hot Springs. In real life, he met a similar end in Chicago.

I recently lost a friend. Her passing was a shock to all, especially to her family. Still, many of us knew she was struggling, and we offered those parts of ourselves that we thought might help. Admittedly, my friend and I never fished, though we certainly discussed it. Of course, I did offer other parts of myself–pieces of my life and practices that allow me to live successfully from day-to-day. I had hoped these offerings might help reorient my friend and find strength through her new connections in nature. Unfortunately, the reasons for her struggles were many and complex. And the help that I and other friends offered was not enough. As John Maclean says above, of all the parts of our lives we can offer to others, sometimes we just  “do not have the part that is needed.”

Rest easy now, Matoyaaki.

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