By Susan Remson
I am somewhere in the middle of middle age, and there are still many things I have never done. Until recently, one was to attend a major league baseball game. But that changed that last month, when I saw the Pittsburgh Pirates break a losing streak in a 5-2 win over the As. I had so much fun that evening at PNC Park, looking down on home plate and up at the Pittsburgh skyline, surrounded by families and food, that I’m now eager to attend my next game and could become a real baseball fan.
Since that time I have moved from Pittsburgh to Wisconsin, and live right on Lake Michigan. From my windows, I can see the open lake and the harbor. We have been here almost two weeks now, settled enough so that my husband went out and bought fishing poles and tackle and a net big enough to catch Moby Dick (yes, he has always been an optimist). He has gone out a few times early in the morning. The first few times he came back, I would ask if he had caught anything. I have learned now not to ask; that if he had, I would hear him shout from the dock, a block and half away from here.
Last night he took me out with him and I cast off for the first time in my life. He explained to me what to do — having learned it himself five days ago from the guy at the rigging store where he bought his equipment. “Hold down this thingee. Pull the rod back. Throw it out. Then release the thingee. Keep the rod low, and reel it back in slowly, occasionally jerking the line ever so slightly. That’s how the fish swim, in jerky motions.”
Sounds easy enough to me. So, I did it, and it was easy. And I did it again. And again. Over and over again. I watched other people on the dock doing it, over and over again, and I didn’t see anyone catch anything. However, they were hopeful, and they were out there doing what they wanted to be doing at that exact moment. Nothing wrong with that.
After about an hour, it was almost dark, so we packed up our stuff and started to head for home. As I turned around, I saw an older man who had been standing about fifty feet away from us, take his net and swoop it down into the water.
“Look, he’s got something,” I told my husband. “Let’s go over and see what he’s caught.”
Several other people had gathered around as he lifted a huge brown fish out of the water. The old guy was kind of nonchalant about his catch, but everyone else was impressed, telling him “Wow,” and “Good for you,” and “Way ta go, buddy.” They walked away with incentive to come back tomorrow, and with renewed hope that the big one with their name on it was out there, waiting for them.
As I walked home, I couldn’t help but think about fishing and some similarities to my recent exploration into creative writing. First, until well into my fifties, I did neither. I have always been a technical writer, but about two years ago I tried my hand at fiction and pardon the pun, I was hooked. My writing comes in jerky motions, sometimes smooth and steady and other times in little spurts, punctuated by immobility. I’ve thrown a few things out to see anyone is interested in my work, but so far, not even a nibble.
Like the fisherman who still hasn’t caught anything, I haven’t published anything in this genre—yet. But I keep trying and I understand that trying is part of the process, just like each of those folks at the end of their rods. It’s also true that like those guys at the dock, right now I am doing what I want to be doing. I may never catch the big one, but I like being here. At this point, I would be happy with a small catch. Fish, I mean, as well as seeing a short story or poem of mine in print. Even a little piece, just to keep me going.
However, I am encouraged when I meet other new writers who are successful, and I appreciate talents who reel in the big fish and get their rewards. Like my husband, I too, am optimistic, and I really believe that there is a fish out there waiting for me, and that a story of mine will be printed, and that it is never too late to become a fan of our national pastime. I just can’t remember if it’s baseball or fishing.
Susan Remson lives in Kenosha, where she write about the environment, politics, and culture of the Great Lakes at Great Lakes Views..