It has clearly been a year of frustrations. The challenges we have all endured with Covid, politics, the economy and just finding socialization where we can have been unlike anything ever before. Each of our lives have been turned over and shaken about. Some of us might have even lost loved ones to the pandemic. Add to this all the other day to day challenges and life events that we must face it becomes easy to lose track of our sense of center and balance in life. For me, tenkara has continued to serve and has been a great place of refuge from all these challenges.
As I try to use tenkara as a model for my own life as much as I can, I realized that I haven’t stopped lately long enough to just watch what is going on around me without judgement. Autumn for me is about looking deeper at the person that I am and at my relative relationship to it all. These insights can help us to see what we can work on thought the winter and help guide us towards planning a new season's path. We can take stock in what we have learned from the months past.
Our perspectives can be tainted by the thoughts that arise. It can be skewed by our misconceptions of who we are. The overwhelming feeling of emotions, fear, struggle, and anger can have a detrimental effect on our sense of well-being. We can feel helpless and that life is living us and that we are out of control with how to live our lives.
I have been swimming in this stream of troubles, fears, and emotions myself. I know that I need to reflect on my life and look to see where I can do better and where I can find some sense of control without feeling I need to control everything. To have some control would be better than floating without any control. But that idea of control is limited. We must understand that we make only small ripples in the water compared to the current.
Just as when we cast our fly out to the waters we are casting to the situation in front of us. We don't get to decide what the stream does but there it is before us. Then, as we cast to the spot we want, the current also has a way of saying what will happen to the fly next. The more we know about the current and how it is most likely to function the better we can assess where to target our cast. To do this, we must stop and watch the water. We must appreciate how fast it is flowing, how deep it runs and what other things are affecting it’s current. Yes, it is a bit of a guessing game. But if we stop long enough to watch and just be in that moment, we can see what we “might” need to do to compensate for the situation.
Our day to day lives have been very much like this these days. Each news cycle, each update of information and each external influence is supposedly there to inform us. But can we trust this all enough to really know we are in a place of stability? I would argue that too much information can cloud the waters and not let us really see where we need to stand much less allow us to feel where we need to stand.
We do have control over how complicated the waters are that we want to cast our lines to (or that we want to wade out into to cast?) It may not seem like it sometimes because we have already stepped out into the current and are feeling the full weight and pressure of the stream on our very foundations of support. So, there is a step that we must take if we find ourselves in this position. We must move to slower and more shallow waters. Maybe we even should consider moving back to the bank so we can move up or down stream. While we may be able to cross a heavy current, we cannot maintain our balance under the constant pressures. Maybe we need to just sit at the side of the stream for a while and just breath. Appreciate our surroundings and connect again with what is basic and simply before us.
My life lately feels very much like I am standing in a river with the current trying to knock me over. Some days just when I feel I am holding my own a gush of current sweeps me off balance again.
Winter is just ahead and as I have closed my autumn season of fishing. I can reflect on a good season in spite of the chaos that was 2020. I am committed to embrace the near future with great intent and contemplation. I will find my moments of joy and happiness in other places away from the water’s edge and wait for the spring to come again. I will work to understand myself a little better. I will work on things that interest me and continue to learn and grow in other places of my life. I look forward to working in my wood shop and I look forward to writing about my process through the next few months.
We are all struggling these days in some way. I can only ask you to take pause. Notice where your feet are planted, how stable you are, and if you can lend a hand to someone else you see struggling near you in these torturous waters.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a cuddly dog, and a very lucky cat. Dennis is an avid minimalist, wood craftsman, curious tinkerer and learner and most notably a deeply focused tenkara angler.