Caught and Released: A Writer Wednesday Post

August 13th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays




story tarpThe Tarp, photo and all text © IreneO’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Caught and Released

I’ll explain this photo in a moment.

Before we set off on our rafting trip, my brother Jim gave me my first fly fishing lesson–in a parking lot, so as to narrow my focus.  A high point of the whole trip was the moment I physically understood the “ten and two” motion he described, whereupon I made two or three good casts. Both of us whooped with classic teacher-pupil joy: I caught it!

Jim said that we’d be fishing from the raft in places where the fish practically come up and shake your hand. But within the first ten minutes aboard, the Flathead River  practiced her own cast, hurling us toward a dead and deadly fallen pine. It hung low over the swirling water, its silver trunk spiked with broken branches. Given our velocity, there was nothing to do but duck as we mashed into it.

I got a honey of a scrape, but we made it through with eyes and limbs intact, only to notice when we finally dislodged ourselves that two of three fly rods had snapped in half.

As it happened, I never did get to fish —weather and other hazards intervened. I had to release the skill I’d caught for only a moment.

But such stories we netted on this trip! (More of them to come.) In the photo above, my sister Robin and nephew Don display a wonderful way to remember them. Don and his daughter Lauren invented The Story Tarp for their own camping trips. They wanted to make one for Jim, so they brought a blank tarp and a set of Sharpies and asked each of us to make a pictograph of an important incident every day. (In the upper left you can see Jim’s drawing of me learning to cast.)

Now I’m off again—this time to Canada for our beloved annual trip to the Shaw Festival where we feast on food, wine, friendship and great theatre–other people’s stories—a fascinating contrast to last week. But not as enduring, perhaps, as the stories etched in the iris of our own eyes, stories shot through fiber and marrow, bristled through fingertips, spreading over us like the massive quilt of stars. Stories swimming through us like fish–amazing to catch, a delight to release.


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  • ceblain

    Would love more photos, Irene. This tarp idea is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

    • IreneOGarden

      Thanks, Cynthia–hope little by little post some more!

  • Mark Rettman

    I love that tarp idea… modern day pictoral/ mural mirroring ancient American Indian murals on ANIMAL SKINS… SAFE TRAVELS!

    • IreneOGarden

      Safely there and back–thanks, my pictoral friend!

  • Laura

    Oh another glorious essay- I am trying hard to choose which thrilling cast of words netted the most exhilarating catch- “etched in the iris of our eyes” “a delight to release”

    Such vicarious pleasure this trip is still giving me.

    • IreneOGarden

      Many thanks for your warm words, dear Laura!

  • Scott

    Oh, how I felt the bonk as you struck the fallen pine. I will always keep a Sharpie nearby so that I can make a daily entry on my own story tarp.

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