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June 13, 2012: Fish

Don’t shirk your work for the sake of a dream.
A fish in the dish is worth two in the stream.

I had to memorize the above quote in the 5th grade, in Sister Mary Albert’s class. We students all had to memorize it, and then go around the room reciting it. At the time, this was difficult – it seemed like a lot of words. Now it rolls off the tongue when Pete returns from dipnetting salmon in Chitina.

This time he came home with 33 fish in the big white cooler. Now a good number of these fish are smoking in the smoker. The monolithic white Servir refrigerator now has smoke billowing up around it. It’s a fish funeral pyre.

Anyhow, the quote: As a kid, I focused on getting the ditty down. I quickly figured out that the smart kids got it, and the dumb ones did not. And I didn’t want to appear stupid.

Later, many years later, I considered the import of this ditty, which I’d previously committed to my long term memory. The subtexts were: stay productive. Don’t dilly dally. Don’t take time off and rest or gloat about your innumerable accomplishments. Instead, just keep working.

It’s downright unnerving how such things become engrained in one’s psyche. I’ve taken this a step further and done as the poem suggests, because at some level I believe this to be true. Sister Mary Albert wouldn’t have had us memorize this if it weren’t so.

I never sit still for any length of time. Cow Parsnip. It takes a village. Compost. It doesn’t just happen. Garden: tend to it or be banished to the Garden of Weedin.

Our Smoker
Our Smoker

Our friend Chris hold diner

The unwritten list has no end in sight. Cross things out and then add two, three, four more things.

I could say that in the process of writing this dispatch that I determined that I am going to change. But I’ve discovered that oddly enough, change gets harder the older one gets. The only change I’ve experienced has been involuntary. I now sometimes move a bit more slowly, and this only serves to increase my panic level. The past few days, I’ve experienced considerable pain in the ball of my foot. I did not move any more slowly. Rather, I quickly figured out that I could get up to speed if I put my weight on the outside of my foot.

I’d say that my more maniacal behavior is reflective of the time of year. It’s now daylight 24 hours a day. But I’m also this way in the winter. Bottom line – I have no desire to change. I’m quite content being a Sisyphean. If I had the time, I’d go to a Sisyphean Conference. I’d happily attend talks with titles like “Little People Move Big Rocks,” “Caught between a Rock and a Hard place?” And (my favorite) “Rock of Ages: Move it or Lose it.”

At night, after eating Rock Fish, we’d push big and little rocks around with our noses. After, we’d refrain from talking about our accomplishment, and instead converse about “the next big one.”

This dispatch was supposed to be about fish, the fish that we’re now smoking, canning, freezing, and eating. Sad to say, what underlies this dispatch is the sense that right now, something else equally important isn’t getting done. Indeed.

Next: 188. 06/14/12: Departure