Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty.
-Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
I remember fondly the first time I went fishing. I remember it like it was yesterday…
We leave the harbor and I watch the water for signs of sea creatures or anything out of the ordinary. Oh, the glorious smell of the sea air! The boats and birds to watch, the changing landscape, my humans around me…joy! The worst part of fishing, though, I must confess, is that Man says, “No! No!”–I must not chew the delicious, salty ropes. Why not? This was not sufficiently explained. Woman’s brother is visiting, and he is fun to play with.
Far away from the harbor, Woman’s Brother catches the first fish! It is large and frightening (or would be frightening to a dog less brave than I). It flops violently on the deck, and I step in to help Man and Woman’s Brother with it.
I had encountered wild creatures before–moose, birds, insects–but this was a rendezvous of a new kind. The fish was salty and slippery. Its movements were alien to me. It came from a secret world under the surface of what I saw which I could only wonder at. It knew the answers to profound mysteries, mysteries which I may never study or solve. There was a moment when its eyes (both on one side of its body) met mine and our souls communed. The eyes of the great fish held no desire for vengeance; the fish seemed to understand that it was fulfilling its humble role in the chain of existence. At the same time, the gaze of the fish reminded me of my own mortality, and that I, too, was part of that same chain. Indeed, this was a lesson I knew well already. Had not my brother been killed? Had I not dealt with tragedy and death?
Eventually, the fish was still, and the day was done. That fish and another we took home, cooked, and ate (I was also allotted a small portion). Fishing had lost a little charm for me by this time. There were many new regulations which I did not like. The thrill of the encounter with the fish, however, I will treasure. I would look forward to having such an encounter again.