A couple of weeks ago my daughter told me that she wanted to audition for a solo or duet for her last chorus concert of the school year. As we talked about it, one of her comments was something akin to “I want to make some noise going out of the eighth grade.” I smiled to myself because although I was a “band geek” up until the tenth grade, I have never been musically endowed. I smiled again to myself thinking of all the years she and I have sung Jimmy Buffet, Lynrd Skynrd, Kenny Chesney and Eagles songs at the top of our lungs in the truck and on the boat. She may not have received musical talent from me but she has a pretty extensive working knowledge of classic rock and country music.
Abby made it happen. She and a classmate were given a duet solo in the classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” On the drive to Maine yesterday for the concert I was as nervous for her as I had been for myself in any ski race I was ever in. But as the chorus took the stage I could see in her eyes the confidence she had in herself and the fire to get up there and put it all out there in front of the audience. She rocked it. I was proud beyond words, not just of her performance but maybe more so of her doing it for herself.
I have seen huge advances, particularly this year, in her self-confidence as she has become more involved with chorus so I was not surprised. As a parent you want your kids to find something that is their “thing.” As much as you want at times to steer them toward something, all you can really do is sit back and let it happen. I was a little surprised last week when she was down for the weekend and told me she wanted to catch a striped bass…on the fly. She has fished with me a lot over the years but I think more to appease me than because she really wanted to. So I always offer but never push.
This time was different. As we got geared up to go down to the river, she commented about how much she missed going to the fly shows this past year and seeing all my fishing friends and that she wants to fish more so she understands what it is that I do and how all the flies that I tie work for different fish. She has been the one person who has never questioned the fishing or the fly tying business. In fact one night shortly after her mother and I split up we were sitting on the couch watching a movie and she looked over at the tying bench and asked me why I wasn’t tying. I told her that I wasn’t sure I was going to do it anymore. She just looked at me and said, “Dad, it’s not something you do, it’s who you are. It’s your thing.” From an eight year old. That’ll choke you up.
So Abby and I put on the rubber boots and went to the river. We had talked about working on casting a bit but there was pretty good breeze in our faces so I told her I would do the casting and the rest was up to her. I would make the cast and hand her the rod and she would strip the line. It was slow but she kept at it and asked all the right questions about retrieves and line management.
As we stood there I thought about how fast she is growing up and how much of a young lady she has become. The last year has been tough with her living in Maine, not being there every night to hear about what she learned that day or to help her figure something out. And I again thought about how I’ve seen her come into her own this year and how singing and chorus have been a part of that. Having a knack for remembering obscure things I thought of a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I saw somewhere:
“Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence and whereto.”
I stood there in the sun, on the bank of the river, in my favorite place in the world, with my daughter, fishing and started contemplating the commonalities between the art of music and the art of fly fishing. This was interrupted by a strike on the fly. Abby missed the fish but she now knew what the take felt like. We talked about what do when she felt it again and I made another cast.
She stripped the line and I Googled the definition of music on my iPhone. I know, web browsing while fishing – not cool – but the idea for writing this happened at that exact moment and I needed to keep it rolling.
One definition I read was “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color.” I was on to something. The expression of ideas and emotions…yup, nailed it there. The act of casting is all about rhythm. Reading the water, accounting for wind and light, making the cast, presenting the fly…it becomes a melody. For it all to work, it has to all happen in harmony. And color…well everyone knows its chartreuse. Except here in Dog Town it’s a number 2 orange Charlie.
So I stood there trying to save all this garbage in my mind to write down as soon as we got back to the Jeep. I made another cast and as I handed Ab the rod she felt that tug, surprised me with a little unrehearsed strip strike and was tight to her first stripe!
We made a few more casts but it was not to be. We walked back to the Jeep and cranked some Kid Rock on the way up the hill.
I hope that in music and singing Abigail finds what I have found in fly fishing. The gift of both is in finding yourself.
North River, MA
4 June 2014