Sunday Letters
Man fishing
9 April 2000

Dear Friend,

The other day a large young dog, less than a year old, stopped me on the way to work. He trotted onto the road carrying what looked like an empty milk carton. I started to brake. He dropped the carton on the road in front of me. I came to a stop. He looked at me, waiting, like I was supposed to get out of the car, pick up the carton, and throw it. Instead, I sat behind the wheel, laughing. Disappointed, the mutt picked up the carton and wandered down a side road, looking for better playmates. I released my foot from the brake and drove on, happy.
. . . This morning, after weeks of spring flowering, we were suddenly thrown back into winter. Over an inch of snow fell, a wet snow that stuck to everything and weighed down the blossoming and budding branches. By afternoon it was spring again. The only evidence left of snow were puddles, shriveled daffodils, and a few digitSnow-covered blossomsal photographs. T.S. Eliot talks of mid-winter spring as a season bringing false hope. What would he say of mid-spring winter -- a season taking away false pessimism? For a few minutes after the snow had stopped and the sun came out, the world looked like cake freshly frosted. Especially glorious was a blossoming tree outside church -- white on red against a blue sky. It made me happy.
. . . Last Monday, driving back from work, I stopped to photograph all the men fishing for trout below the waterfall on Beaver Run. It was the third day of fishing season. Sometimes, when photographing people, I get mute, saying little, communicating by signs as though I was still working for the American Deaf Dance Company. A white man walked by with an 8-inch fish and offered it to the black man standing on the bank, who called down to his friend in the water. "Want this fish?" "Yes," said his buddy, pointing. "Put it there in my tackle box." The white guy handed the fish to the black guy who handed it to me. "Careful," he said. "It's slippery." I said two words -- "I know." It was slippery, oily. I took the fish firmly from his hand, tossed it in his friend's tackle box, then washed my hand in the flowing water. That's how the fish passed, from white to black to white to black. It made me happy. Perhaps when people fish, color isn't significant. Perhaps I shouldn't be making a deal of this passing fish but then, I'm not a fisherman, I'm a writer and a photographer. Jesus called fishermen to be his disciples. Why didn't he call shepherds? Or other carpenters? Or writers and photographers? As I remember, he did call a tax collector.
. . . That reminds me, I've got taxes to figure. I don't have time to write! That makes me sad. You'll soon find photos of mid-spring winter and of the men fishing on my website. Sometime I'll to tell you more about my serene 40-minute drive to work each day down back-country roads full of dogs wanting to play fetch and guys fly-fishing next to waterfalls.
. . . What makes a person happy? Is happiness something you find or something you make?
. . . Judging from these three recent events in my life, as often as not happiness is something you find, in particular, something that doesn't fit expectations. Isn't it like that, too, finding someone to love? Making friends? Finding work you enjoy? Finding a place in a community? Making a place home? Working hard is important but so is keeping your eyes open to what God will put in front of you next; that, and patience.
. . . The other day, Judy Garland walked into the post office just as I was leaving. Was I ever surprised! I must have been dreaming. In fact, I was dreaming. Perhaps the dream was about getting home. You remember, just click the heels of those ruby red slippers together three times. That was the movie, Hollywood. This was a dream, mine. Ms. Garland was old. She hadn't died tragically. A graceful aging had taken place. She didn't notice me. No reason why she should. What she noticed was that one of her songs was playing. It pleased her that her music was still played, even in post offices where it might not be heard. It made her feel contented. She smiled, soft and inward. I walked outside, happy.

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"An empty stable stays clean -- but there is no income from an empty stable." -- Proverbs 14:4