I had a very different idea for what I would write this week. But fishing is a funny activity, and I'm surprised by what I've encountered. I'm here with my childhood friend Dave, with whom I've experienced so much of the formative things one remembers. I'll write about him another time. But it's because of him that I am here, and I am immensely grateful.
Standing at the beach, line in the water, surf hitting the shore, now lively, now gently, becomes an opportunity.
The first day, I practiced my QiGong postures while standing almost motionless. Stretching imperceptibly, knees bent, trying to make the Qi flow.
The second day, I began to be tired of the effort. I focused on clearing my mind. I tried to be mindful and stop the internal chatter. By the end of the day, I was exhausted of that, too.
On the third day, I tried to "rest" from the effort of trying to improve myself. Trying to rest my mind. Trying to get the dumb repetitive classic rock song that I'd heard most recently on the radio out of my head.
And, while I was doing all this trying, I was thinking about my late cousin Bobby. He loved to fish. He went on fishing trips to Costa Rica, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and who knows where else.
Bobby died of leukemia last year. A vigorous, vital, irrepressible man who brought everything he had to everything he did. He was in his early sixties. His brother Joel related to me that as he lay dying, mostly unconscious, he would rise to the surface occasionally and say, "Joe -the fish! They're everywhere. It's beautiful…!"
I also received news that a dear member of my shamanic circle is dying of ovarian cancer. She is not asking for healing work from her shamanic family - just prayers for a gentle and joyful passing. A gentle and joyful passing.
As I'm cutting up the bait - small mullet fish - I wonder at their guts. Such an amazing collection of intricate, elegant complexity inside this little tube, surrounded by muscle and bone. Their shiny eyes still bright, their gills and such so foreign. And yet they serve me in a deep and profound way. I am increasingly aware of my own "guts" - my internal organs, so neatly and compactly tucked away inside myself. My heart. My stomach. My liver. My lungs, to which I offer an apology for the silly indulgence of smoking a cigarette or two each day while I'm here. I feel them, I sense them all the more clearly and…poignantly…as I stand at the edge of the surf with a bit of fish on the end of my line.
And as I sense them, I breathe into them. And I think of my cousin, and his joy of fishing. And I think of the fish, somewhere out there.
I breathe in and out. I feel the wind blowing against my chest, facing the surf. And I remember that I am not "me", not this physical body. I remember that I am permeable, the space between my subatomic particles gargantuan compared to the tiny dots that are protons and electrons. I remember that the Qi can flow through me, and does so with every puff of the wind.
I remember that my inner universe, too, can flow through me, with every puff of my breath. And the two universes, the inner and the outer, flow and mix together like currents that meet at The Point here in Buxton, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks.
The two commingle and mix and for just a moment, I am not here, in this body. I am somewhere ineffable, indefinable, some way of being that is behind and around and in communion with my body and the sand and the Ocean and the wind and the water.
And as I breathe, as I am in communion with the Creation, Mother Earth, and all that she is, I smile a gentle smile and say "Hello" to the fish that has taken my line.
Bobby and I have a lot in common. Effort being the most prominent, I think.
I think, perhaps, he still has other things to teach me.