Skim ice covered most of the lower Burnham Park Pond yesterday. I drove up listening to "I Got the News," by Steely Dan, thinking of Fred Matero's telling me about catching the bass photographed here about a week ago. We both worried that these two ponds got decimated by fisherman taking fish to table, but his catching a bass in cold water is good to hear about.
If I were 17, I would have fished that open water the photograph indicates (below). Possibility gleamed, but I no longer take every opportunity I piece out. Just maybe I will fish Burnham after it thaws and before solid ice locks in.
Approaching a pond, rather than a reservoir like Round Valley, I always seem to revisit younger years, the quality of energy intimately vital, my sensibility freshened and original for touching upon youth: helpful for a writer who, rather than shunning conformity, can simply step aside and step back in to deal with what he needs in society.
Fishing's no escape, although it can seem to be, as I recently noted Izaac Walton's notion. Centrally, Walton's idea was to get away from the social chaos of the British Civil War. Social inhibitions are freed when blazoned by a bluefish blitz or fully immersed in the wonder of a stream, and the freedom achieved stays with you for life. To get back out and fish involves awareness of freedom. If I didn't fish I would become more as what many intellectuals believe modern man is: self-divided. Some scholars claim Izaak Walton used the word angler as code for Anglican Christianity. My notion of an angler is Aristotelian. Angling is a form of activity, even if Arthur C. Clarke might chide in and say it is indistinguishable from magic. There are those moments.
Catching fish under unusual conditions a limited specialty of my teens, I remember the open water yesterday. Trying new techniques, new waters, different weather and water conditions, these practices keep me fit in a world that is, after all, natural. Fred accomplished a feat last week catching that bass on a blade lure in cold, shallow water. With the mind applied, fishing is an exercise of practicality with results, and wider contemplation connects to the enormously varied and complex physical world. Health and energy fundamentally natural, the more civilized and developed aspects of life infuse with substance, insight, and motivation. Go and get these necessities to a good life, outdoors.
13 years' working in bays year round as a shellfisherman--100 degree heat and 10 degree wind, wind chills near 30 below--I studied independently of academic programs, and nature threatened me in the end with enormous overkill. Philosopher Ayn Rand noted that a man can't live in a state of nature indefinitely. My life came perilously close to death because I was obsessed with learning what I called the secret of nature. I wanted to know directly the internal truth of matter. My return to normal arduous, gratitude for others' belief in me is greater than my resentments towards misunderstandings. I went to the very limit and survived because I'm like anyone else determined to live, yet always have believed some things are worth dying for if necessary.
That adventure in the wildernesses of the Jersey Shore with bays behind the islands extensive and solitary especially in January and February, was an adventure of the mind and spirit that continues to serve as a source for life, continuing normal and regular with excellent prospects for the future.
Anyone who immerses deeply enough in nature reaps lifetime reward. My wife jokes that I could drink from the Ganges. I have not been sick, besides a few ordinary colds, since I was 17, and the thought of a flu shot is anathema to me. Creativity is not limited to art. Create health and life's response is beautiful. And if severe conditions threaten, as they did against me at the end of my bay adventure, holdfast to consciousness within.
Burnham Park is a memorial to men who faced severity.
Last photograph of today's post features the copper plaque designation for important history right here at Burnham Park, many, many years before the impoundment of the ponds, when General Henry Knox of the Continental Forces of the American Revolution grazed horses where I catch pickerel and bass. I remember history associated with the Jockey Hollow Encampment constantly and used to take lunches in the Hollow itself, especially appreciating winters. An advantage of being on the road for work is history. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a great a book on the subject: The Uses and Advantages of History for Life.
That plaque honors the American Revolution: completed, accomplished, achieved, and forever inscribed upon existence. I recall a certain poem by Robert Frost to describe my life as I feel about it at the moment. It's not that deeds do not really count; it's that no one wants to be left out.