From time to time I am certain you deserve to read the thoughts of others. My crude writing style (if you can even call it that) does not always move smoothly or coherently. But I know people who can write and I like to read.  If those of you who read this blog would like to share a story, by all means email it to me. Don’t be shy! Here is the first story by my friend Sam Waters. I hope you like it!
I am a fisherman

As I grow older it’s the way I like to think of myself.  For me there is something comforting in that vision.  Something peaceful.  I have had the great pleasure and good fortune to find myself in great waters from the streams of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  From the Big Horns of Wyoming all the way back home to the Kinnickinnic and the Rush.  Great waters each, all in their own way.

I don’t claim to have caught a lot of fish although there have been times I have gone home dog tired from fighting fish in strong currents and sometimes I have wondered why I do it at all.  But I have always gone home with my limit.  Maybe not with a mess of big browns, or wily rainbows or pretty little brookies. but filled to the brim nonetheless with a sense of belonging.  My glass always more than half full. 

As I get older catching fish becomes less important to me. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like the tightening of the line and watching your rod bend a bit
or a lot!  Nothing like finally landing a beautiful trout after that dialogue of tension.

Some nights I dream of it and can feel myself startled when I imagine that strike.  It’s a bit like when I was younger and I would dream that someone was throwing a baseball to me and I would flinch in my dream to get out of the way.

I used to live and work near D.C.  I was one of many who helped to create one of the first permanent exhibits in the National Museum of the American Indian. I was honored
and humbled
to work alongside Native American religious leaders and elders on an exhibit about native cosmologies or philosophies
what we “in the west” would call religion.  They would come to the CRC to go through the collections and I would go spend time with them at their homes in Indian Country.  I spent a lot of time high plains drifting.  Still do.

The work was pleasurable in nature, but brutal in practice.  For the first 4 years I worked long hours
for 7 days a week.  Very little time to think about the world around me or my place in it.  At that time it seemed that my place was inside the Cultural Resource Center doing what needed to be done to get the thing up and running. 

When the time came that we finally handed off the project to the fabricators, designers and administrators my schedule cleared up enough that I began to head out to those Blue Ridge streams
the Rapidan, Rose, Big Run among others…to fish.  

More often than not I was wound tighter than a drum by the time I got out of the Beltway.  I recall driving out I-66 to get to the hills thinking “Man, I hope I get there before everyone else”, or “Man, I hope no one is in my spot”, or “I hope I can find a good spot to pull off” and perhaps most important
and something that many, if not all of us usually have in our minds when we go fishing
”I hope I catch a lot of fish
BIG fish”.

Tighter than a drum.

Looking back at that time I have to laugh as I remember that there was never a time that I did not find a good spot to fish, or a convenient pull off, although there were many times the fish part never materialized.  At the moment I waded into the stream all of that faded.  I remembered that I was a part of all that surrounded me
not apart from it. 

What I remember most from my experiences of that time
perhaps more than anything else
was the words and deeds of those who I worked with and came to know as friends.  They have become a part of me and I am grateful. I take them with me not only when I go fishing, but also everywhere I go.

One of these mentors (and someone I look back on as a friend) would sit and visit with me when he would come to the CRC for the board meetings.  Vine was one of the smartest people I ever knew and a good man to boot.  He passed a few years back and the world is a smaller place for it.  We would talk often about the work that was going on as the museum was being built and, although apprehensive in some ways, we were both hopeful that it would grow into something beautiful, thoughtful and, perhaps even important in some way

The conversation would often center on the hope that we were doing things in “a good way.”  At the heart of those conversations was an idea
a concept
that encapsulates the “way of being” (if you will) for many Native American communities, especially the Lakota. That idea is found in the words Mitakuye Oyasin which means “All my relations” or “We are all related. “ 

To those who live outside the community it sounds nice.  It’s a good catch phrase.  An interesting sentiment.  

But if one thinks about what it means to say that
to say “All my relations”
it can give rise to a powerful understanding of our place in the universe and what it means to maintain a relationship with all beings
all things animate and inanimate
that make up the universe.

In that universe all things are alive
all things have at their heart a spirit, a potentiality.    Vine would describe it as a “moral universe.”   He said that “In the moral universe all activities, events, and entities are related and consequently it does not matter what kind of existence an entity enjoys, for the responsibility is always there for it to participate in the continuing creation of reality.” 

How do we, as people, fit in, I ask?  And continue to ask even as I write this.  What is our role
my role?  

Our western philosophical tradition is created in such a way as to make many of us believe
or at least act
as though it is a “human centric” universe.  That the world was made for us to do with what we will.  In other words, to paraphrase Vine, humankind believes itself to be the “final product of the purposeful life force and this makes them
the crown of creation”.

But if you think about the universe in a different way
that we are all, indeed, relatives
you begin to understand a more holistic way of thinking about the world around you.  One that, dare I say it, makes more sense.  One can begin to understand that in the grand scheme of thing humans are “the younger brothers of the other life forms and therefore [have] to learn everything from [all] creatures.”

Humility is one of the keys here.  When we begin to understand that we are but one part
and, frankly, a small part at that
of the power and greatness of nature, it SHOULD make us humble.  “The wise person will realize his or her own limitations and act with some degree of humility until he or she has sufficient knowledge to act with confidence [because]
we are, in the truest sense possible, creators or co-creators with the higher powers, and what we do has immediate importance for the rest of the universe.”  

How do we gain that knowledge?  By stopping ourselves from vibrating
even if it’s just for a moment. By being still and watching.  By being quiet and listening.  By observing.  Those older brothers and sisters have a lot to tell us
be they furry, finny or flying.  Be it something crawling or buzzing in your ear. Be it the rocks in the stream or the water that moves around them. Be it the clouds in the sky or the wind cooling us on one of those hot August days on the Rush. 

Respect is another key. We like to think of ourselves as individuals and this is not always a bad thing.  It does not necessarily mean that we are
as suggested above
the center of all things.  
The most important beings to walk the earth.  
The end all to be all as the saying goes.

What it does mean is this
and here I will offer one last quote from Vine.
“The living universe requires mutual respect among its members and this suggests that a strong sense of individual identity and self is a strong characteristic of the world as we know it.  The willingness of [all] entities to allow others to fulfill themselves, and the refusal of any entity to intrude thoughtlessly on another, must be the operative principle of this universe.  Consequently, self-knowledge and self-discipline are high values of behavior.  Respect
does not mean the WORSHIP of other forms of life but involves two sets of attitudes.  One attitude is the acceptance of self-discipline [and here is where that humility comes in]
to act responsibly towards other form of life.  The other attitude is to seek to establish communications and covenants with other forms of life on a mutually agreeable basis.”

There is nothing more agreeable to me than fishing.  To be in the water or even just sitting on the banks of a magnificent stream is my idea of peace and contentment whether I am with some friends or one of those “older brothers”. Although I am able to have and cherish my solitude, I am never alone.  And there is great comfort in that.  

And great responsibility as well. To be reminded by the sound of the wind or water that I have a responsibility to those friends and “older brothers” is a stirring thing.  That I too, can help “the universe move forward and create the future.”  For all things, for all generations.  

Be thoughtful.
Be responsible.  
Be respectful. 
Be humble.  
Be peaceful.  
Be content.

Take care of your relations and they will take care of you.

I am a fisherman

Sam Waters