The website and blog have been off the air for awhile. The lads whose gizmos carry my website were swarmed by asshole hackers and thus we all had to be “cleaned.” Now we are back up and I will post things that didn’t get posted previously. Lonnie and I are now back in SW Michigan for the White Dirt Season, though we caught three inches of pure white slop on the way south. So it goes when one travels in this state in late autumn. That said:
I recently told someone that I see the importance of rivers for far greater reasons than angling. The facts are self-evident. Although water covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, it is actually a rare substance that represents just 0.05 percent of the Earth’s total mass. Water has nevertheless played a crucial role in the emergence of life on Earth. Without it, Earth would in all likelihood be a dead planet.
Think about it: we’re all made of water, which may account for an almost universal human attraction to oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers. Some people are attracted to still water, or tidal waters, some to large bodies, some to puddles and still others to moving water, which I think of as a gift-bringer.
We drink water, clean our bodies with it, absolve our sins with it, hide out mistakes in it, heat it to keep warm and make power, freeze it to conserve food, use it as a buffer against invasion and as our avenue to the enemy when we are on the move.
Each generation of humans seems to grow more distant from the outdoors, and from moving wild water. Wife Lonnie and I not so long ago were confronted by a young woman with two children who had not only never seen a deer, but had never heard the word. It was as if we were speaking Martian – or Klingon.
It’s remarkable to me how many people never learn to swim and I am certain that this alone accounts for a great deal of fear some people may hold for water. Of course, even in the heyday of the British Navy, most sailors couldn’t swim, which is one of those odd historical facts you can’t get out of your mind.
Our Indians settled along watery edges, especially rivers because that’s where the food was. This is no less true in Michigan as in Equatorial Africa. Over time we learned to travel on water and use its movement to convert energy to power. In storms, water can become the enemy, bring flash floods, seiches, storm surges and tidal waves. Water kills with impunity. Shakespeare has his character Gloucester proclaim in King Lear, Act 4 scene 1, 36-37: “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods/They kill us for their sport. King Lear Act 4, scene 1, 32–37
Think storms and draught and mass starvation and disease vectors, and ubstitute water for gods and it for they and you get the idea.
It’s fascinating that salmon can find their natal rivers with clues no stronger than a few scant parts per billion scent in water thousands of miles distant. And, I can show you everywhere in a river where I have caught or encountered fish. How can I do this? I have no idea, but I can, and it is perhaps knowing that a certain place AOTBE, that once held a fish, will still hold them in the future.
We can seldom see into the river in the way things in the river can see out and therefore we must accept the kind clues the river provides to help us understand what is happening in front of us, to guide us in “reading” a river, a term many use for a skill few possesses Some may argue there is a metaphor for religion here, but that’s the choice of others.
What we know for certain is that Water refreshes, sustains life and also can take life either actively or because of its absence, and in this vague manner teaches us to respect something real, with more power than we can imagine, not to mention the moods of a living creature or gods as Shakespeare put it.
I’ve always found it odd how most European religions tend to look upward at the sky for god and heaven, when scientists tell us that all life crawled from the precious watery sea and all water that evaporates back up into the sky, to fall back to earth in cycles that govern our lives.
Water and rives sometimes invoke memories of history, things that can inspire us, things that can terrify us — but all of which can motivate us in some way or another.
We humans can go a long time without food, but not without water. Humankind for most of recorded history has been exploiting all things natural, including water, and doing so under the mistaken assumption that all that is here is limitless, or renewable, when some of us know differently. A substance that accounts for 1 20th of the earth should never be taken for granted.
I have always insisted rhetorically that we are all Africans, and it’s fact that all of humanity emerged from fairly arid parts of Africa to spread around the world, traveling on water and depending on it to secure life and health and safety along the way. I wonder if this genetic fact and the rarety of water may account for the unspoken power it holds for almost all people. Take someone to a river and watch how they will stop, pause, and look on in virtual silence, as if they are looking at their own souls. I take this pause as a form of prayer and have no doubt that if and when a soul is finally scientifically discovered and identified and mapped, it will show water at its center.
Angling is fun, even important, but more important is the water that sustains that activity and all human life. We can’t ever allow ourselves to forget this – or our children.