Loose gravel crunched beneath my boots as I trudged down the dusty trail, bitter as a brussel sprout. I had travelled 800 miles for “one more family fishing trip” with Grandpa, only to succumb to his most epic prank:
“You all go, I will rest in my camping chair today!”
He said it cunningly, as if it has been his plan the entire time. The trip had been on the calendar for six months, and it had always been for him. Grandpa is a living spirit of the canyon; he has fished here for over 50 years. He taught Dad to fish here, and the two of them passed their wisdom to my siblings and me. I remember Grandpa showing me how to hook the worm when I was four years old; tears streamed down my face as I cried for him to stop: “you’re hurting him!”
I still can’t hook the bait myself, and I still silently apologize on behalf of my family, as Dad artfully squishes the poor earthworm’s guts.
Grandpa taught me how to read the river. He taught me to look for bubbles and to cast in the pools beneath the rocks; that is where the fish will bite. I cast my line anywhere else, wishing with all my might that nothing would bite my hook. On the off-chance that I had to reel one in, I’d apologize as I gingerly removed the hook, and lowered the poor thing into the water, petting its tired body as it wiggled away.
For Grandpa, fishing has always been for peace, but for me, fishing has always been Grandpa. When the news arrived that he was losing his vision, he planned “one more family fishing trip” in Hells Canyon. It was one final chance to SEE the canyon, and he pulled a last-minute switcharoo to do so without us, in a camping chair atop the mountain.
As I dragged my feet down the trail and onto the boat, I tried desperately to cling to my grudge, but the beauty of the canyon chipped away at my sour soul. The lonely black sky began to glow lemon and coral, kissed by the rising sun, unveiling towering peaks that jutted into the sky like temples of the gods. Never had I noticed the vivid colors and dancing textures of the canyon like I did that day, and through every worm-hooking and fish-head-bashing, I meditated on the splendor of this landscape.
I was nearly lost in this meditation when the sputtering boat engine turned off and all chatter fell silent. Just 10 meters away, a juvenile bear traversed the shoreline. His presence stopped time. He was the most majestic creature I had ever seen, padding his way across the rocks with a quiet confidence. His movement was fluid, as if he had memorized every angle of each rock beneath his feet, as if he had traversed this section of shoreline for a lifetime. I was witnessing the prince of this wild playground, in all his peace and all his glory. Suddenly, the final drop of bitterness evaporated.
I pictured Grandpa in his chair on top of the mountain, absorbing every detail and memory of the wild playground. He had padded his own way across the shorelines for half a century. He knew every rock and every swirl of the river, and like the bear, he embodied peace.
Hells Canyon is heaven for Grandpa, and it is now heaven for me too. That was the reason for “one more family fishing trip.” We needed to SEE that the canyon is a gift not to be taken for granted. It does not matter how many fish you catch, or who you are with, or if you choose to ride in the boat or to sit atop the mountain. The spirits wear many disguises; sometimes they are grandpas, and sometimes they are bears, but no matter what form the spirits take, they will meet you in the canyon and wake you up with magic.
This story was originally published at www.scratchesinthedirt.blogspot.com.
About the Entry
- Blogger name | Eleyse Morgan
- Site name | Scratches in the Dirt
- Site URL | www.scratchesinthedirt.blogspot.com
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- Entry Number | 16
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