Saturday, February 2, 2008

something fishy here....

Everyone has a trout story. I'm sure you have a trout story. Valteri told me a great trout story about fishing the pools of the McIntrye River in the 40s. Before work, after work, just head out to the nearest spot and bring home your breakfast or dinner. My sister has a good trout story, too. My sister's trout story, however, actually belongs to her husband. It goes like this:

he looked out the window and dreamt a pond. He envisioned a pond stocked with trout right where the small brook trickled through their front property. Imagine the tasty trout dinners they could have! Just step out the front door, drop in the line, and set the hook!

He got busy hardscaping the land. Moving rocks. Planning the meander, the shape of the pond. Perhaps a small foot bridge-- like Monet's ? A reed-like plant here. One whose roots love water, there. Pickerel weed for the edging? or arrowhead? And water lilies, definitely some water lilies. And, facing the setting sun: Kalevi's bench. Perfect for after dinner relaxation.

Well, the pond was stocked. And each morning he went out to feed the hungry little fingerlings to fatten them for the frying pan. Day after day he went out to the pond. The trout began to expect him. They blew kisses of air as they nibbled at the surface. They thrived under his care, in the pristine playground he had made for them. They grew quite large. Are the trout ready for the frying pan, yet? asked my sister one soft Irish evening as they sat together on the bench. The sun had started its descent into the purple hills. Their eyes followed the school of trout playing hide-and-seek under the lily pads. You can guess the rest. They never did end up frying trout in a pan. Fish have personality*, too.

Of course, that's not my sister's husband's story of trout, at all. That's my story of my sister's story of her husband's trout. My story of trout is set by McVicar's Creek. It starts last summer when my brother, his wife, and my two nephews, Kai and Axie, came to town.

Traditionally, for many northern people, like us Finns, winter is the time for story-telling. Summer, you're too busy fishing. I have a theory that what people call "cabin fever" is really lack of story-telling. Too much aloneness. Story-telling, you see, implies an audience -- you. And a teller -- me. So, story-telling is always a communal act, a social act. Our ancestors knew that. The Finns have a rich story-telling tradition. Find a Finlander, you find a story. Or two. Or three. In the past, our ancestors had a story to lift one's spirits, to brighten the dark days and nights. A whole word chest of stories for all kinds of moods. Today, by the time February rolls around, people here start talking about "depression". The "mid-winter blues." Now, that's easy to happen in the winter when it's dark, cold, gray and desolate--and you start staying in rather than going out. You start hiding yourself away. Some days you don't even go out. You sink into darkness, literally and psychologically. Surviving winter is not easy. It's a feat, especially if one's ancestors are northern people who lived in the land of ice and snow. Tipped away from the sun. Before gas furnaces, central heating, electricity, flush toilets, cars, grocery stores. My presence is proof that my Finnish ancestors had the sisu to survive winter before consumer conveniences.

Story-telling was one of their survival strategies. Story-telling was the white light to the rescue.

*of course, fish don't have "personalities." That is a word that not only separates mind from body and the world, but also anthropomorphizes a being. That is, places human-like (human constructed, too) meaning on the fish. Even the word 'fish' is of our making. So, if not 'personality', what? I thought of the yogic greeting, Namaste. Roughly translated as 'the divine in me greets the divine in you.' The meeting of spirit. Everything has spirit, say the Anishnawbe. So, rather than having a personality, a fish has spirit. The spirit of a person and the spirit of a trout meet/greet/mix. A person in human form, the fish in its fishiness.

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