Time moves fast. Every moment seems to pass by faster and faster than the one before. New distractions are always at our fingertips: one buzz and you are linked into a whole virtual world. We daydream of far-off places, wondering how we could ever match the experiences posted by everyone else. Counting the reasons why our life isn’t following the same ‘perfect’ path that we see on our screens. So caught up in trying to manicure our lives that we never stop to live our own.
There is beauty in disconnection. Wonder in the unknown. An excitement in accepting that there isn’t any one path. There is contentment in doing exactly what makes you happy, no matter how crazy people may think you are.
So here I am. Staring up at a sandstone bluff. A lush, deciduous forest bursting with life above it. Below trickles a slow, wandering creek. It follows the low spots of the rock bottom. On rare occasions, it narrows, creating deep holes teeming with life.
There I stand. A four-foot collapsible fishing rod in my hand. A hook so small, reading glasses are required to bait it. An image belonging in a kids’ book: a man so obsessed with fish he would search even the smallest puddles. The truth is each of those puddles are magic. The longer you look into them, the more life you can see. Creek Chubs scurry about, fighting one another for any scrap of food. The other minnows mine the bottom, searching for the rare morsel that escapes the chubs.
These scavengers are careful. They graze around each tiny rock. When you are still, you can get lost seeing the small schools systematically search each quadrant of the pool. Watching in amusement, my curiosity gets the best of me. I drop my comically miniscule hook to the bottom. The minnows scatter. (A reasonable response for a creature on the bottom of the food chain.) I leave the bait resting on the bottom. They feed in a pattern, and I know they will return to this area soon. I carefully watch my hook as the minutes pass. The first brave minnow returns and finds my bait. The tiniest tug on my line and suddenly I’m happily holding one of these bottom-grazing beauties. A quick glance and I recognize a familiar face. It’s a Bluntnose Minnow! They are thriving in the creek this year.
My curiosity isn’t so easily sated. The occasional ghost of a larger fish dances around the Bluntnose Minnows. This fish is different. I stand there huddled over the creek, dropping my bait down over and over again. Pulling up one Bluntnose Minnow after another. I’m starting to question my sanity when a silver flash happens as my bait drops. Could this finally be it? A small, silver fish wiggles at the end of the tiny hook. I don’t recognize the fish. It’s something new! My 107th species of fish caught on hook and line. The Silverjaw Minnow!
I sit on the sand beside the creek and smile. Life is simple here. It is a place where a two-inch fish can make a person’s day. The sound of singing birds surrounds me, harmonizing with the babbling creek. A vibrant forest breathes. Time has no meaning in a place like this.
A Blue Jay flashes, letting me know I have over-extended my welcome here. I wade down the creek. I walk slowly to see what minnows will make themselves visible. Creek Chubs dash left and right. The Bluntnose and Silverjaw Minnows retreat to the deepest pools as I pass. And then I see something unique and pure. The creek narrows to a foot wide. A single pool the size of a basketball cut into the rock floor. The water rips through here. A perfect habitat for an amazingly unique fish. I get down on my knees and shade my eyes with my hands. At first, all I see is the water rushing over smooth brown rocks. I focus harder. An odd, triangular shape points out of a crack between two stones. There it is. The queen of this creek. The humble Spottail Darter, perfectly camouflaged. This tiny pool is thriving. Darters are resting on the bottom against the rocks, just waiting for a snack to wash down. A wee insect floats down and one zips out from the bottom, the meal vanishing in a heartbeat. I get my fishing rod back out. How could I pass up such a perfect opportunity? My little hook touches the water and a darter shoots out of the rock. A quick picture and it is back safely.
Content with the time spent wading in the creek, I make the slow walk back to the car. The distractions of the ‘real’ world can’t touch me here. I smile as the Blue Jay scolds me one last time. One last long look at the sandstone bluff. The trees a vibrant green contrasting against the blue sky. I close my eyes. One last deep breath of the pure forest air, imprinting every detail of this place until I return.