Today, Squinchy and I went fishing. Squinchy is the ideal beginning fishing companion. He likes to bushwhack, he does not head out into rapids, he does not make criticize or laugh when the line gets tangled, and he gets right to the heart of the endeavor by finding a mossy spot on the bank and falling asleep. Also, he does not care if I catch a fish. In fact, I don’t even think he knows that one can catch a fish. Fish comes out of the refrigerator, right Squinch? I also do not care if I catch a fish, and while I do know there are fish in rivers, and that people catch them, I am still stretching myself to believe that I could stick a line in and it could catch one. It seems very magical, and at this point, it’s still a metaphysical activity for me. I mean, holy shit, what would I do if I caught one?
But I am getting ahead of myself. Because this fishing trip didn’t start with fishing. It started with Squinchy high-tailing it away from me when he saw we were going to get in the car. (Last time he was in the car, I left him there during my yoga class and he peed on both front seats. Future passengers beware.) This time, I caught him, we bought a fishing license, and headed up the Middle Fork. Things were going well.
Then I locked my keys in the car. There we were in the woods, Squinchy and me and two doggy biscuits. I borrowed a nice kayaker’s cell phone, and called my mom. Who else would I call in an emergency? Also, she could look for my spare. She hung up before I could tell her I was on a borrowed phone because my phone was with my keys. She did not find my spare key, but drove off to my rescue anyway. She showed up armed with a tool called a slim jim, basically a metal ruler with a bite out of it. We jiggled it around, but nothing happened.
“Well, we have the tool — now we need someone who can use it,” I said. A minute later, a guy in a heavy metal band shirt popped out of the woods. “Are you locked out?” he asked, excited. He jiggled the tool, no luck. “Let me get Jason. He’s uh, really experienced with this stuff.” Jason came out and jiggled the tool. No luck. “Don’t you have a coat hanger? I could do it with a coat hanger.”
Meanwhile, back at home, my dad had found my key, where I said it was, and was eagerly awaiting his moment of heroism if the slim jim didn’t pay out, cell phone and house phone at his side. My mom and I ended up just driving back to get the key ourselves, and I’m pretty sure my dad looked disappointed.
But after all that, Squinchy and I had a great afternoon on the river. One great thing was that none of it was really a big deal. I mean, my mom was a mega mom-saint, driving back and forth and back and forth with her slim jim, when she had a whole morning’s worth of her own things to do. Thank you, mom. But besides that, it really wasn’t a problem. I wasn’t freaked out; it wasn’t a headache. Just a series of asking kind people for help. And I didn’t feel dependent on them. If they couldn’t help me, I would just keep going down the road, or worst came to worst, break my car window or something. Whatever. Beautiful day in the woods. This was really nice. I used to get so tense about this kind of thing — missing buses, car trouble, being stranded. I would deal with it, but it scared me. Today, I just felt at home inside myself. I could get myself where I needed to go.
This feeling is part self-sufficiency, and part interdependence. It was the feeling of being confident that I was surrounded by kind strangers, and that I could trust my own senses and serendipity to find them. I think it is pretty much the feeling of being on the Camino de Santiago. Which is just as metaphorical/magical/metaphysical as fishing, though harder to do with a dog.
When Squinchy and I were walking back to the car, sun-filled and with salmonberry seeds in our teeth, we saw Jason and his friend building huge rock stacks on the river bar. “The trick is to make them look impossible,” said the friend. I left them there, in their own river meditation, and Squinchy and I drove on home.