Saturday, November 24, 2012

Religion and Angling, Daydreaming in Class, Making Dreams Real, and Making the Real Dream

As a tournament bass fisherman in my teens with a B.A.S.S. local chapter and New Jersey State Federation, I was totally naive to the influence of religion on angling. Not that tournaments would have anything to do with it, but that it now seems as if the whole game is a Christian crusade. I grew up Episcopal, had heard the fishers of men phrase, was granted permission to fish the ponds owned by the Princeton Day School eight miles from home by the Headmaster who sang in one of the choirs my father directed, but I never associated religion and fishing and didn't consider myself religious, although I loved to perform music. I associated science and fishing, never confusing fishing with science, but keeping a relationship to my passionate interest in science developed between the ages of four and 11. I put the image of Christ up for this post not becauase I worship it, but because it symbolizes taking everything in life within and embracing it all as a complete, happy abundance right here in this world. That's what the outstretched arms symbolize rather than wavering over a worshipping herd of sheep. And if you read the Bible, Jesus says as much himself about abundance.

I went to Lynchburg College in Virginia because bass fishing is better in the south, although by the time I selected the school, I had already abandoned ambitions to continue with my outdoor writing and also abandoned ambitions to hit the national tournament circuit and reap those rewards. I had won plenty of trophies on the local scene against men mostly twice my age and certainly had more energy than required to fish at the national level. I gave it all up to pursue a literary career. Just turned 17, I had a strange experience motivating me to write a short story entitled The Dead. I had not yet heard of James Joyce. I wrote the story entire without getting out of my chair, then regarded it with profound curiosity. It took nearly another year to be convinced that novel writing was what I wanted to guide my life towards, early in my senior year.

Some months into that last of high school, I had another experience, which did not impress me as strange. Our Western Civilization class was assigned to write a paper on Napolean Bonaparte, mine finished in about 15 minutes as if I took it straight from dictation, except that I was conscious of making subtle adjustments to arrange its ideation congruently with my own. But despite my ability to turn out astonishing papers in other classes also, which won special distinction from teachers all through high school, I graduated in the center of my class, ranked 143 of 286, my problem holding attention and doing homework held grades down all along. I daydreamed all day long while sitting in classrooms with distracting artificial lighting. Since I never figured out how to pay attention and conceptually integrate class material to an A standard, I fused experience by imagination while thinking over myself and over the whole academic program. On occasion, during almost any class period, I knew just when to snap out of my distance and attend an issue. And of course a B minus grade overall isn't bad, but I endured school very conscious of the state attendance mandate and feeling in disagreement with it; overwhelmingly most of what I learned was from outside the state funded academic program. I did very well at disciplining myself to pay attention in class my first semester of college--because we paid money for this. And I made sure to quit college as soon as I became certain I would not do as well there, as to go away and study great books alone. 

And what's the use of all that religion if it doesn't bind together your whole life as a seamless completion, reality and dreams together, dreams becoming reality and reality becoming dreams? A happy life, in other words. A happy life in spite of all the persuasions to the contrary, in spite of the "common unhappiness" Sigmund Freud suggested people should experience, for example, and other dissuasions against the human experience, happy and free of worshiping anything that asks you to sacrifice for it, or offers to be a sacrifice for you.

Besides, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and refused. He never offered himself; he did just the opposite by keeping his word. True to his own logic, he died just as would any hero who knows that some things are worth dying for. It could be said that this is a most profound paradox because his death on the cross proved to be his central contribution. But the essence of the matter is that Jesus challenged authority and refused to back down.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Banks of Green Willow George Butterworth Complete Living in a Beauracratic Age

Some anglers experience fishing as a get away. Isaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler in 17th century Britain, wrote "Let us go a fishing," as it was a way to exit the turmoil of his times between Protestant and Anglican Christianity, an all out civil war. I live my life as seamlessly as possible rather than compartmentalize it as if my mind were a beurocrat in charge. Modern people typically fragment themselves into conflicting interests as confused as Congress. Rather than separate fishing from the rest of my life, I consider the crisis of civilization we all live through now and simply recognize that nature is not and never has been a place apart from what we produce. Even Neolithic man a hundred thousand years ago impacted the environment deeply by use of fire to aid in hunting. When I was very young, ten years old, I had an obsessive desire to experience pristine wilderness. The way I worded this: Nature completely untouched by the man made. I spent plenty of time in wild places, but in this respect I seemed to spend more time very deep in my own mind attempting to imagine a perfectly pristine place, but actually discovering the purest reality that exists: the untrammeled human spirit. No better purity exists than within the being responsible for spoiling the environment. The dull theme of so much environmentalism--that man is an evil, destructive being--is not true.

George Butterworth is another British figure associated wtih war, having died fighting in World War One. His best known musical composition, Banks of Green Willow, expresses what it is to be an eternally youthful angler better than any other music I know. I hear no longing or yearning in the music; it is entirely present as if a goal inherant in all eternity is reached. The clarinet is subtly distant, as if a slow breeze is heard around a stream bend. The flute solo, following, is the very soul standing in open air sunlit on banks of green willow.

Existence cannot come from nothing; present time always implies past and future. So existence is eternal. The flute solo in Banks of Green Willow sounds like something that can happen not once, but over and over again, eternally possible. The earth is sometimes referred to mysteriously as this earth, as if planets like it can happen again and again forever, even if separated by whole, recurrent universes, trillions of years. What is a trillion years to eternity? The important value is your own life. If you don't live it now, will you live it a trillion years in the future?

Long Beach Island, North Carolina Outer Banks, California, Santa Fe, Comparisons, Northeast Corridor Why Planet and Industry are United

You can tell by the pictures I loaded--all from the Outer Banks, North Carolina--where my heart is. (Two are Chesapeake Bay/Bridge/Tunnel, Virginia.) When I shellfished for 13 years off Long Beach Island, New Jersey, I had a camera only for the last six years, and used it little. I was focused on studies and writing and wanted distraction neither from my photography hobby or fishing. Shellfishing about four hours a day, sometimes two for months running, was enough. Otherwise, I kept active at all sorts of enjoyments with my girlfriend. It's worth putting this stuff online. Robert Plant's line comes to mind from "Oh, Rosie Girl," or "How Many More Times?" That there's no need to hide or run.

First vacationed on the Outer Banks 1969. More and less ever since.

My quandary began in 1982 when I really got serious about clamming as the way to earn a living while I studied. I wasn't sure if I should clam on LBI or on the Outer Banks. Communication back then was not like today. I really didn't know if clamming existed on the Banks until I visited there in 1996. But I had suspected.

Outer Banks pure, more solitary, aesthetically superior for natural form, have deep, deep memories of mine embedded.

But I imagined society on the Banks would be lacking.

Long Beach Island clammers not only associated with one another by respectful distance. The year round hard core who worked in, not on, the water even in January--all 20 somethings besides one or two early 30's--more and less shared a free spirit philosophy.

I was the only one intensely intellectual, although one of us saved enough of his earnings to earn a Psy. D. in psychology from Rutgers. I didn't speak like an "intellectual," nor was I only "one of the guys." The purpose of my studies involved eventually making money. Writing is all I can really do. I do a million things besides, but not one of the things I do isn't in the service of my purpose as writer.

Hurricane Sandy virtually left all the boardwalks behind us, just as if Bruce Springsteen foresaw this decades before. But like any society, New Jersey rebounds. Twentieth century Jewish Prophet, philosopher, and anthropologist, Martin Buber, wrote that resistance sustains until God crashes the very roof over the head. But fortunately, no tree fell on our house, though climate change deniers could get a rude awakening. Buber spoke hyperbole at not very far remove from reality. First thing out of my mouth when my brother Rick phoned the morning after 90 mph winds had raked his house a mile from the beach: "Jobs are created." Why not be upbeat? That's how things get done.

I like New Jersey more than North Carolina, even though I have a deep, deep sentimental attachment to that southern state where I played the radio on stations and found songs I loved before Starbuck's song, "Moonlight, Feels Right," came out, as if in answer. I always felt I could do without scattered doses of potion, and have done without this form of vernacular sunshine, but at least the song had an association to a girl way, way back in 9th grade. Opens with an electronic sound wave like the modification of a steeple bell.

I wouldn't live in this state if I didn't feel its industrial challenge is worthwhile, at least by the fundamental principle of the free mind, which applies to art and business alike. I know about Superfund projects and lesser environmental disasters, just as I am wholly optimistic about the open space revolution in this state. 

Philadelphia was just 60 or so miles away when I lived on LBI. My girlfriend Maureen lived on the city's outskirts. We traveled back and forth constantly, sometimes listening to the rock DJ with "the Animal," on WMMR. From Philadelphia, we traveled north and west in Pennsylvania. We always got around to various places. I always noted in my accounts that I was "at Lawrence," rather than "at my parents'" when I visited my hometown township of that name. I had thought of leaving it all for a new start in California, then I considered Santa Fe, flew out there, and found the place a bore. LBI is a resort fantasy in a way, but I thought of it better than Santa Fe. 

The wilderness of bays sustained me, and having the Boulevard to drive, usually just minutes or so a day connected me with any and all venues. With Maureen, the Island's attractions always became charming. But towards the end I called the whole place a backwater. Not the bays. The bays are a part of the planet inseparable from the whole. I found my life in them. Even more than I had found my life on Stony Brook of Princeton Township and the ponds of Princeton Day School. 

But I had to go. And now I drive 150 mile weekdays through some of the busiest of the Northeast Corridor. No backwater. It's the most important place in the world.

12/1/12 Put a picture of Maureen and I up at the bottom of the post. Why not? Don't think she'll try to sue me. :-)

Check out the tan! December bronze. January, February, and March too--year round sun!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Round Valley Reservoir Trout Attempt: Sweetest Feeling in Weeks

About time I got back to fishing lunch hours. Driving along the Delaware & Raritan Canal well before I got to Round Valley, I thought of how much fun I had last fall, even though I caught few pickerel. Sometimes the thoughts I have while fishing make my steps dance involuntarily. I recall Stony Brook in Princeton Township during my teens and the way I danced on rocks as I covered fishing range--not even knowing the stability of stones until they took my weight--that could have broken legs. I moved like a wild creature, but ecstatic with feeling no beast can ever know. The clacking sound had a resonance like percussion subtly suggesting time deeper than I knew, seemingly having foreshadowed life ahead.

I simply lay my body down on that dock after I whipped out my marshmallows and mealworm, propped up my arm on my elbow and read a favorite novel by Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris

It was the sweetest feeling I've known in weeks. I didn't even think of my getting skunked.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lake Hopatong Jigging & Herring Attempt at Walleye and Hybrid Stripers.

Obviously a nice morning on the lake if photos of natural events don't bore you. The feeling I get from the photos is sweet and simple at first take, but actually being there was more. Besides, there's enough variation of form and color to interest me in these images.
We fished four hours and got skunked the first time in five years' fishing from Laurie's boats. I had thought Dows Boat Rentals were closed for the season, but they will be open next weekend also. Winds went in the direction contrary to wrecking the place during the recent hurricane.

Water temperature was 45, so I told my son, Matt, that it was almost like ice fishing from a boat. Temperatures at bottom under ice are 37 to as high as 39. Could be in the low 40's on the bottom now.  We marked loads of fish off Chestnut Point, suspended over 50 to 55 feet of water 37 to 22 feet down, but even with our herring placed right among them, none took. And no one else I spoke to caught any either.

Best moments included contemplations of changes of light and form by the positions and amounts of clouds in the sky, and jigging a Gotcha at Sharp's Rock. That was our last stop, way up lake from the dock. Lots of sun on my face, the water slightly riffled, the huge face of glacial stone before me felt complementary to my awareness. Air temperatures had climbed out of the crisp 20's we ventured out into in the dark before dawn, and my hands felt nimble as I worked the jigger deftly. I became clearly aware, as I maneuvered with the electric motor, that if this was like ice fishing from a boat, it sure has better odds than cutting holes to jig through one little spot at a time.