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Thoughts from the beach

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by Scott Powell
A few years ago my wife Terri bought me a fishing trip to Idaho.  It was one of those remote places where you have to fly in a tiny little plane to get there, land on a grass airstrip and drive to camp.  Our guide was a kindly, Grizzly Adams type, except that he used to be a high powered CFO at a billion dollar company.  He had gotten burned out on the corporate world and decided to become a fishing guide on his family’s property.    On the first day there he had us out in the middle of the most incredibly beautiful river I’ve ever seen, an emerald green stream with a rising mountain to our left and a green grassy field to our right.  I couldn’t wait to catch a fish.  It was all I could think about.  We came to a gentle ripple and stopped to fish it.  I cast my fly out about 20 yards and let it drift down stream just as he had taught us on the shore.  Halfway through the ripple a trout attacked the fly.  I jerked too soon and too hard and lost the fish.  I was PISSED.  I let fly a flurry of curse words and started walking upstream, confident I had blown my chance of catching a fish at this point in the water.   The guide pulled me aside in the middle of the stream and said this:  “I know where you’re coming from Scott.  You’re wound up tight and driving yourself every minute of every day.  I’ve been there too.  I want to teach you just one thing while you’re here with us at the ranch.”  Then he paused, smiled at me and said “It’s not about the fish.”  I smiled back, nodded and started walking up stream to the next spot getting ready to cast my fly again to catch a fish.  He held tight to my arm, smiled again and repeated, “Scott, trust me, it’s not about the fish.” 
 
This morning, I decided to head to the beach to fish.  It’s about 50 degrees and there’s a light rain falling across Emerald Isle.  I grab my rods, tackle box, rod holders and cooler with multiple kinds of bait and head down to the surf.  The beach is empty save the occasional dog walker but no one comes within a half a mile of me.  I am alone.  As I bait my lines and cast them into the sea I think back to my thoughts as I drifted in and out of sleep this morning.  My last official day at work was December 31st.   For the first time in nearly 25 years, I don’t have a job.  I’ve caught myself in moments of anxiety this week thinking about going back to work after the Christmas break, with new goals, initiatives and global budgets to drive, only to remember, I’m not going back to that this time.  I feel both excited and scared when I think about that.  For 25 years I’ve been fighting and pushing every day to execute, to improve our station in life, both at work and at home.  To take care of Terri and our kids but also realizing that a vacation hasn’t passed without me feverishly checking my email, afraid that something would pass by me, someone would be let down, some corporate initiative would fall short.  I found myself thinking “what the heck am I going to do?”  
 
As I stare out to the horizon with the rain gently pelting the ball cap and jacket I’m wearing, with the waves cresting and rolling in from the sea, my fishing rod in my hand and another in a rod holder beside me, I see a platoon of pelican fly by in formation just off the ocean skimming the waves with the tips of their wings.  I notice a seagull sitting on the sea just by a buoy that marks a fisherman’s net that’s hung up on a piling beneath the waves.  And just then a family of dolphin surface, first two, then four, now six, swimming up shore as they search out their morning meals.  And that’s when it happens, just for a moment, an ever so brief trickling of time.  I find myself lost, fixated on the beauty and tranquility I’m witnessing.  I’ve forgotten about my fishing rods, lost track of the hunt. I’ve stopped thinking of email or my contemplations of the future.  As I stare out across the ocean, the beauty of this moment, as the rain comes down and as the family of dolphin submerge, I smile and realize, truly, …..it’s not about the fish.

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