Posts Tagged ‘ripples’

Release

Monday, July 29th, 2019

release

They are fly fishing in the Applegate River together, standing in waist-deep water, facing downstream, their lines parallel in the fast-moving flow.

Fred has fished for steelhead in this river for thirty years—the ripples on the water’s surface giving him a detailed picture of the submerged topography, each ripple a syllable in the talk of the torrent.

Tom is visiting from a city far to the south in California. He fishes with some bitterness, mourning the shortness of his stay in Oregon. Maybe I’ll have another big success one day and buy some land up here. Build a little house. Write poetry. Stand in the river whenever I want.

Now a massive steelhead takes Tom’s fly, her voracious hunger overriding her sense of what is real and what is fake.

“Yes!” shouts Fred, grinning at his old friend. “I knew you’d get the first one.”

“Wow! He’s big,” say Tom, playing the fish a bit too zealously.

“She,” says Fred, knowing this to be the female’s dance, a frantic darting mixed with desperate leaps—anything to save her eggs. “You can let her run. No snags all the way to the bend.”

Tom begins to weep.

“You okay?” asks Fred, surprised by his friend’s tears.

“Take my pole,” says Tom, wading through the torrent to Fred. “I can’t do this.”

“No,” says Fred, recoiling. “You hooked her, you play her.”

“But I don’t want to kill her,” he sobs seven years old, playing on a creek, hopping from stone to stone, lost in a fantasy of being an Indian, going around a bend and coming upon a man drowning kittens.

“You don’t have to kill her,” says Fred, touching his friend’s hand. “Just play her and then let her go.”

“Just play her,” says Tom, excited by the ferocity of the steelhead’s will to live. “And then let her go.”

“Yep,” says Fred, nodding. “And while you’re doing that, I’ll make coffee.” He studies Tom’s line for a moment. “I give you a good fifteen minutes to get her close.”

“A good fifteen minutes,” says Tom, watching his friend clamber up the bank. To play a big fish on a lovely river on a lovely planet. Not a bad incarnation.

So he plays her and the scent of coffee fills the air and the river sings her song.

At last the beautiful silver fish rises to the surface and allows Tom to draw her near.

“Oh my friend,” he whispers, unhooking the barb from the fish’s mouth. “Please don’t die.”

She hesitates to leave, not understanding she is free until he touches her and says, “Go on now. Go.”

fin

Centered Gull

Monday, July 16th, 2018

gull capture

Gull Capture photo by Todd

In the novel I’m writing, one of my characters says, “I don’t believe in luck.” She doesn’t explain why she doesn’t believe in luck, but by the time I wrote those words down, I was several hundred hours into writing the novel and I understood why she didn’t believe in luck. Or why she didn’t think she believed in luck.

But the thing about luck is similar to the thing about love. Is there an indisputable definition of luck? By that I mean, what exactly is luck? Are we talking about fate? Karma? Random chance? My character doesn’t believe in luck, but she does believe in karma, or her definition of karma, which may be different than your definition of karma or the Dalai Lama’s definition of karma.

The difference between karma and luck is tricky because the two ideas can be easily conflated, as in “we make our own luck,” which might be a definition of karma.

Maybe what my character meant by luck was dumb luck, which would be luck we haven’t made ourselves, but luck that simply befalls us. Pure chance. But if there is no such thing as luck, then what seems to simply befall us may actually be the result of karma or something else.

I had an experience recently that was captured in the photo I posted at the beginning of this article. If the photo of which I speak is not attached to the version of this article you’re reading, I will tell you it is a photo of a rock outcropping on the coast a couple miles south of Mendocino, an outcropping that becomes a little island at high tide. The day is sunny, the water deeply blue, and in the sky above the iconic outcropping, perfectly centered, is a sea gull winging swiftly by.

Now here’s the thing. When I stopped to photograph the outcropping and the ocean and the sky, I was in no hurry. Yet something made me hurriedly fumble my little camera out of my pocket. And I distinctly remember thinking, “Why am I hurriedly fumbling my camera out of my pocket? This is weird. What’s going on?” I remember not having a solid grip on the camera as my hand swung up and framed the outcropping and my finger grazed the shutter button before I was consciously ready to take the picture, which is something I never do because I prefer sharply-focused pictures to blurry pictures and I like being conscious of what I’m aiming at when I depress the shutter button.

But this time, everything I never do was done, seemingly involuntarily, as if I was being used by the unseen forces of the universe as a kind of robot Mars Rover to take the picture, only I wasn’t on Mars; I was on earth a couple miles south of Mendocino.

When I got home and downloaded the day’s photos from my camera onto my computer, here was the picture of the outcropping and the ocean and the sky, the only photo of the outcropping I took that day, and in the center of the photo was a gull winging swiftly by. I did not crop the photo. The gull centered himself at the moment the shutter clicked, and he was going mighty fast, the gull. I know he was going mighty fast because when he winged by during that spastic picture-taking moment, I was barely aware of something flying by. Only when I saw the picture on my computer screen did I learn of the perfectly centered gull.

Was that luck? Karma? Fate? The hand of God? The tentacle of a minor deity? And why me? Why that picture?

One answer might be that this frantic fumbling picture-taking resulted in this portrait of a gull and the outcropping and the ocean and the sky so I would be sufficiently moved by both the photo and the experience of taking the photo that I would write about what happened and share my writing so that you or someone else would read about this unusual moment and be moved to do something that causes ripples in the time space continuum and accomplishes something or many things the Universe wants accomplished.

Another answer might be: life is a series of random experiences signifying nothing but what some humans (me) egoistically want to imbue with a deeper meaning that isn’t really there.

Buckminster Fuller wrote extensively about precession, which he defined as the right-angled unintentional effects of a direct action. He has two favorite examples of precession, one involving dropping a stone into a still pond, the other a bee probing a flower to get nectar.

The direct action of dropping the stone into a still pond results in the expected result of a concussive splash. The precessional unintentional effects of dropping the stone into a pond are ripples caused by the initial impact of the stone. Bucky assumed the dropper of the stone was after the splash and not the ripples, or maybe Bucky wasn’t concerned about the dropper’s intentions because this is such a neato illustration of the right-angled effects of an intended action.

The direct action of the bee probing the flower to get nectar results in the bee getting nectar, and the precessional effect of the bee probing the flower is that the flower gets pollinated. Bucky assumed the bee didn’t know or care about pollination and just wanted that nectar. Not being a bee, I don’t know if that’s true. In any case, the action of going after nectar does result in pollination, which ultimately results in more flowers, fruit, and life as we know it on earth.

Precession, however, doesn’t obviously explain why I acted so uncharacteristically when I snapped the picture of the centered gull, but it might explain the effects of my sharing this article, though I will never know what most of those effects are, if there are any.

Even if you, for instance, were moved by this article to take a picture of the view out your window and snapped the shutter just as a rabbit hopped by, a species of rabbit thought to be extinct, and you not only became famous for the picture and thus your life was changed forever, but proof of the existence of this incredibly rare rabbit resulted in a huge swath of land being saved from rapacious developers, and you told me about this, I still would never know about the thousands of other events that might spring, directly or indirectly, from people reading this article and seeing the photo of the centered gull.

Or maybe there won’t be any precessional effects from this article. Maybe this is but fleeting evidence of one human’s attempt to communicate thoughts and feelings that sprang from his experience of taking a picture of a gull centered in the sky above a coastal outcropping.

Only time will tell; and when time does tell, who knows if anyone will be listening; and if someone is listening, will they understand what time is saying?