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Posted By Opening the Heart

Krishana Das is a sadhu, a seeker, a practicer of khirtan, or devotional chanting. In his autobiography, he talks about the stories, or myths, that we carry, sometimes for our whole lifetime, about who we are. The myths are formed when our hearts are broken or we are forgotten or not heard or cut deeply by cruel life circumstances. When the cold winds blow, the stories are etched in ice carvings and when the gentle winds blow, there is a little melting and we are able to summon a bit more Deep Memory and self love. Some people call this grace. I call it Coming Home. It is a place where we have more perspective, where we are more able to watch the parade rather than march in it- and because of that perspective, we suffer a little less.

For as long as I can remember I have loved being outdoors, especially by water: oceans, streams, tidal rivers, estuaries, lakes, ponds. I guess it was only natural, then, that I would come to love fishing. The serenity of fly casting on the North Fork of the Flathead River in Montana or dropping worms in the Saco River in a canoe with my son, watching osprey and eagles being more successful than I was at catching dinner. The great blue herons and white egrets feeding along the shore, the wind on the water, the tides changing. Never really mattered if I caught anything- until it did.

You see, in all these years of fishing, I never caught anything- nada, nil, chada, zilch, nothing! And the more I didn’t, the more it mattered. When we bought our little summer cottage in Westport, Mass. on the Westport River 5 years ago, my neighbor, Rory, took it as a personal challenge to help me catch my first fish. He’s lived here his whole life and caught 8 million stripers and blues and thought it would be no challenge to take me to his best spots on the river and make a success of me.

I remember that first summer when he asked me to go out with him on Thursday night, but I said I couldn’t go but would go with him Friday night. Thursday night he came back with 3 stripers- 29, 32 and 33 pounds! When we went out Friday night it was a full moon with a beautiful breeze and a sky full of stars and we fished for 3 hours. Can you guess what I caught? Rory, by now, was determined, and continued to encourage me to bring my bad luck onto his boat with him. I continued to encourage him to leave me behind if he wanted to catch fish, but he insisted. One night I agreed to go with him but got him to agree to call me Fred while we were on the river (so the fish couldn’t recognize me, of course. The mind begins to create some weird stories.) Nothing changed the outcome- not that summer or for the past four summers. Last month, Rory, the eternal optimist, told me it was a perfect tide, perfect weather and that I was going to catch my first fish. I told him I was cursed, to leave me behind. He said he had a secret weapon this time- a nine hook ‘umbrella rig’ he had been working on for months and it was time for me to try it. I wanted to believe, to see beyond the myth I created. But these stories die hard.

Rory and I trolled for almost an hour, he continuing to cheerlead me until I snagged something hard and broke his lead line and sank his secret weapon in the Westport River. I knew he was trying not to scream “Loser! Lunkhead! Dolt! You’re right, Jon- cursed!” But he just smiled and said “Things happen.” And so I settled into my myth as a cursed fisherman. Until:

Very recently, my son, Ari, wrapped a present for me and asked me to open it. He had found a picture of me at age 19 which he framed. It was a much younger, smiling me holding a lake salmon that I had caught in northern Maine. Ari inserted one word in the bottom corner of the frame: …PROOF…

With Love and Respect, Jon