July 15, 2001
I’m set up in The Cottonwood Campsite in Fort Smith, Montana where the US Post Office is in the laundromat. You can fold your clothes and look at the wanted posters at the same time. And, when everything is finally all neat in your basket, you can buy some stamps and send a postcard.
Ugh! Men at the campsite!! Get out of my face! Telling me I won’t be able to catch any fish unless I hire a guide! I was advised to pay $200 a day for one because I’m just wasting my time!
Am I bitter? Yes! Men fish for power, to unearth the secrets of the universe and conquer and overcome the wild beasts. I am very ticked off at these fishermen with their condescending, long winded B.S. The have been fishing all their lives while I have only known the sport sporadically. It frustrates me because I can sense the ways of river and the outdoors. I have a memory of it all from women ancestors long ago, an instinct for it in my soul. Unfortunately, it is buried under years of domestic conditioning and gender specific rules.
I want to fish even though I rarely catch anything. I think it’s because there is a longing in me. A longing to be be outdoors, to connect with nature, to understand the nature of nature, and to be a part of it rather than just an observer.
A guide is “someone with sufficient knowledge or understanding of a place (territory) or situation to assist another with the greatest efficiency in the least amount of time.” A fishing guide has years of hands-on experience. People who have more money than time pay for that knowledge. America is the nation of the quick fix. Unfortunately, I have the time but not the money. I guess I just need to practice more.
Rhonda, the manager of the campgrounds, stopped by my site. I told her about all the fishing advice I received today and about my aversion to being lectured. In my long 23 year marriage, I was belittled all the time and I still bristle when I’m put down. I offer Rhonda wine in my new plastic camping wine glasses. We sit at my picnic table and she explained how important fishing is to these men and that they just want to help. They take pride in their skill, she says, and in no way are trying to make me feel bad. She has come to know a lot of them and likes them. She is right, I’m too quick to judge. Maybe my divorce is still too fresh.
I wish Rhonda a good night. The coyotes howl in the Montana darkness. I have gained so much this day, saved by a chance conversation over a glass of wine with a kind stranger. Ebbs and flow manifest themselves again. A bad day turns into a darn good day with Rhonda’s gift of compassionate insight. The balance is restored and the beauty enhanced by contrasts is once more renewed.