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Winds and Wings
Tammy DiGristine
 

I sat there in the chair tonight, with the door slightly open, allowing a bit of cool breeze to blow in to the room. My head was back and my eyes were closed. The breeze that blew in over me carried with it the smell of the salt air from the Strait of Georgia. My mind wandered, as it often does and I found myself smelling not the salt air of the Pacific Ocean, but the salt air of the Atlantic Ocean, some 3000 miles away. I was taken back to a favorite place of mine. Suddenly I was no longer sitting in a chair on Vancouver Island, but sitting on one of the benches at Sebastian Inlet.


 I have always loved that place. I have learned so much there… about human nature, about Mother Nature, about life. The lessons came from often unexpected sources. A single old man who taught me about things that grow old, a blue heron dancing in the surf teaching me that things can be wild even though people do all they can to make it not so, and the strange mix of people that gathered there, teaching me about the lure and lore of fishing. I have often said that the inlet is a unique place. I stand by that observation. It is one of the few places on this earth that I have been where people from all walks of life gather and together form a new community. It is Utopia.


 Only at the inlet have I ever witnessed doctors and laborers standing side by side, their economic and social differences forgotten about as both share their knowledge with each other about fishing. Only there have I seen baitfishers, spincasters and flyfishers standing and fishing side by side, none better than the other, none any better off than the other. Only there have I seen complete strangers become part of a family that is fishing.


 The wind blows. Papers stir on the table beside me. I tighten my robe around me, only it isn’t my robe anymore. It is my rainsuit jacket that I am wearing to keep the cool night air from my skin. There on the catwalk beneath the bridge that spans the inlet, someone has caught a fish. The catwalk is crowded, lines are crossed, everyone is shoulder to shoulder, and yet nobody gets angry. Nobody cusses or screams or loses patience. Lines are pulled in, untangled, apologies given and luck wished. The man who has the fish on is given berth. Those around him pull in their lines and wait for him. They watch. Someone grabs a net. It is not someone that the man has ever known before. The fish is landed. People walk over to look at it. High fives are given. Hope is restored for all.


 It is only at the inlet that I have ever been able to totally understand and comprehend the draw that fishing has to people. There where the waters of the river that I know and that is small enough to get to know joins with the endlessly seeming ocean is where the magic happens. It is no longer about the people anymore. It is no longer about the fish. It is about the strange and wondrous connection between the two. It is about fishing.  It is about the water, the waves, the wind, the fish, the people, the love and the mystery. It is about hope, disappointment, victory and the camaraderie that combines it all together somehow.
 

Somehow, it is only at the inlet that I have been able to feel the power that fishing holds over people. 3 am on a weeknight is not a lonely time at the inlet if the tides are right. Even if the tides are not right, there is almost always someone there, their line in the water. I know that if I were to ask them why they were there, they would only answer that it was for the fishing. But why at 3 in the morning when they must go to work in a few short hours? They do not know. They cannot know. It is something so much bigger than them. It is a mystical and mythical beast that rules over us all. It is something close to religion, the unseen, unknown, but totally believed in faith that binds all fisherman as brothers and sisters somehow. Some search for the answers in the deep and powerful currents of the inlet with flies, others with bait and still others with jigs. Each fish that comes from it brings with it the hope that we will all finally know the answer. It is not about the fish though. It is about being. It is about the draw that the water has over some people.
 

I have often wondered how people who did not fish got by. People who do not fish have often wondered how I get by. Neither can understand the other. There are those who fish, and then there are fishermen. I am a fisherman. I cannot live without the water around my feet. I cannot imagine life without laying my line out into some waters somewhere, and hoping that I finally pull in the answers.
 

The wind blows. I find myself now sitting alongside the waters of the lagoon. It was answers I was looking for. The lagoon to me is that magical place that has always held them. I find it comforting that I do not have to be there physically to feel its power and to gain the knowledge that it has to offer. Alligators eyeball me. An osprey soars overhead. Wild hogs root up the ground of the salt marsh across the canals. Raccoons feed near the water’s edge. The space center looms ever watching over the whole scene. A blue heron dances in the shallow water on the edge of the flats. What is it? The answer is so near.
 

The wind blows. The heron flies off to the night scene of the inlet once more. There dancing in the surf, it shows me that there are those things wild no matter how much people try to make it not so. I know now. It is the draw of nature… of things not under our control. It is the draw of something totally beyond our reach, and yet right there at the end of our lines. It is the only escape some of us know to get away from the things that we ourselves have done to the world. It’s a glimpse at the way things were. It is a breed of person that knows things were not always made of concrete and steel and bridges did not always cross the inlet. It is a breed of people that understand we are not the biggest and most powerful things on the planet. It is a common bond shared between us all. We are the water people. We are the fishermen.
 

The wind blows. Someone else has got a fish on. There is nobody else around. I lay down my flyrod and go grab his net. Together we land the fish. Although he uses live bait to catch it, I would have used a fly. Although I would release it, he will take it home. I am ok with that. He is my brother. We are fishermen.
 

The wind blows. I am standing on the banks of the Chehalis River on the mainland of BC. For just a moment there, I seemed to have lost touch with the lessons I have been taught so far from here. For a moment there, I felt a bit of anger and loathing towards the man on the other side of the river fishing with his roe and cleaning his fish. I stood there in all of my glorious smugness… a flyfisher. Just as am I almost convinced that he is the scourge of the earth, a heron flies over and lands nearby, dancing in the current of the river. I remember my lessons. That man on the other side is my brother. He is a fisherman.
 

The wind blows. I stir from my chair and wrap tightly the robe around my body. I get up and walk to the door to close it. The sky is clear for once and the moon casts enough light out upon the grassy field behind the building that I can almost make out a lone silhouette standing there. It is a heron. I have been reminded. The wind blows once again and the shape that was the heron shifts and moves, and then returns back to the tall grass that is always was.

Tam