Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Man with Three Poles by Barbara Sharp

I first recall writing being called a craft in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s timeless Gift From the Sea. In Chapter II she tells us that she has a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. Then, “I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue.”

The matter of craft ironically appeared on an April morning during my customary and solitary walk along the Harpeth River and Mr. Rochford’s lake. In the cool, hushed dawn I walked eastward into the sunrise and came upon a lone fisherman—a normal-looking suburbanite in his 30’s. He was slightly below and to the left of the trail, beyond the tall weeds balanced on the low rocks along the skimpy shore. What caused me to pause momentarily and issue a wry but respectful “you must be VERRRY serious” were his three fishing poles. One he held and worked with his hands but the other two—with their lines also in the water—were affixed to the loops of his pants, one on each side of his body.

Continuing past him the better part of a half-mile to the turnaround gave me ample time to conjure up ideas about the man and his poles. Since he was still there on my way back with his body turned toward me I began with a general inquiry “is there anything IN there?” To my surprise, he informed me of the entire history of the development of Mr. Rochford’s lake, the three champion fishermen who lived across the road that used to return from Percy Priest to release their weighty bass and catfish into this very water, and his very own long list of impressive catches, i.e. fish stories!

Naturally our conversation progressed to the three poles. One was used to fish the area just off shore in the weeds, the other was used slightly farther out in the fringe of the weeds and the third was for fishing in deeper water. Bait differed too—from worms to lizards to artificial types. When he fished the river—a few yards beyond the lake—he again used a different pole and type of bait.

Feeling enriched by our encounter but not wanting to further deter him, we agreed upon the peace of the hour and the sanctity of the place and I went on my way.

Fishing had become his craft. The love of it sprang from him. No doubt in the beginning he was disciplined and patient. Constant fishing yielded strength and skill fine-tuned by attention, devotion and ingenuity. He had fished and fished until he came to trust the process and his own artistic stability. How much like fishing is writing with its poles as our pens!

Barbara Sharp is a member of the Write on! Creative Writing team. Barbara's non-fiction writing interests include women's health, lifestyles, human interest stories, personal biographies, spirituality, religion, and research projects.

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