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The Enlivened Self

“Man is a piece of the universe made alive” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

My first memory as child involves wrestling with a rebellious orange life-vest that smelled like an unfortunate combination of grass clippings and Lucky Strikes. In my Grandpa’s trusty old wooden row boat, my older brother John got the enviable lookout point while I was relegated to the lowly rear bench. Armed with only a cane pole, I fished for all variety of leviathans in what I remember as a perpetual torrential downpour. Through the rain, I transfixed my attentions on the bright yellow tip of the bobber for when it moved it was a call to action in the anticipation of an acquisition – frisky bluegills and the occasional foul tempered bass.

My Grandpa preferred to pursue his quarry by more sophisticated means. He had a bottomless tackle box of bedazzling lures in colors even Kodak had never imagined. They spun or floated or rattled like my Aunt Betty’s jewelry, and to my amazement the most monstrous of walleye and pike pursued them with the zeal of a famished boy maneuvering for the last donut.

An unwilling conscript in the Great Angling Crusade, I learned early that our world is as alive as we are, animated by the dynamic signs of energy at work. All life continues from life and gives chase to that which is most active. Nature pursues what moves and derives from it power, progeny or pleasure. This is the essence of fishing…and meaningful creative endeavors. My Grandpa taught me that a successful outing starts with wishful thinking but is contingent upon our ability to anticipate, attract and act on that which is already animated. To believe otherwise is to be victim of coincidence or perpetrator of outrageous fortune.

Sometimes the fish just aren’t biting and wishing it to be so doesn’t change it. It only changes our experience of the situation and how we make sense of it. Growth comes from developing a deeper understanding of the interplay of the forces and how to manage the tensions of conflict and cooperation. That’s why there is no magic lure or secret checklist for landing the big ones. Our opportunities to become better and new – to become whole – to succeed, are discovered in the places where the world around us is growing and calls us to do the same.

Jeff DeGraff

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