They say the Striper return to New Hampshire waters when the lilacs bloom. By “they” I mean a guy standing in front of me talking to another guy six feet in front of him. That the statement was overheard in a COVID-19 mandated line to get into a store is a curiosity of our times, but interesting to me if only because I don’t generally participate in fishing talk. I’m not much of a fisherman, more a fish eater, but I instinctively heard the truth in that statement.
I’ve been in the woods of New Hampshire for a month now, and other than two trips to visit the in-laws from afar I haven’t strayed out of the 603. I’m plotting covert salt water visits in my mind. I scroll through old photos on my phone and think about excuses to visit Cape Cod once again. Salt water is just out of reach… damn. I’m told that social isolation helps flatten the curve and like most people in the world I hear the truth in that statement. I’ll remain here in the woods for now.
“Sometimes we are starving to see every bit of what is right in front of us.” – Brian Doyle, The Shrew
I’ve learned the truth about myself over the years. Especially now I suppose. I’ve learned that it’s easier to listen when you turn off the flow of distraction the world offers. I suppose that’s why people turn on the flow; for distraction. Or to feel connected to the world. We all do, in some measure. The truth about me is I don’t need much distraction. But I do need connection. I learned long ago to have connection you need to reach out for it, because most people are dancing with their own distraction. I turned to the poets and songwriters because they offer connection in spades, even when they’re long gone from this world. If they are so bold as to reach out to me I ought to listen to what they have to say.
As I stood in that line waiting for enough people to exit that I might enter the store, I found silent connection with a couple of fishermen. It was a bit like stealing because I picked up pieces from them but didn’t give anything back in return. So instead I paid it forward with others I’ve spoken with since, and now with you. Connection is a chain, and we are the links. Distraction weakens the link, attention strengthens it. It doesn’t always seem like it, but I do try to pay attention. And since I have yours, let me say I’m grateful for the connection.