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I didn't understand him. My father would go out to that river every Sunday and would fish. My mother didn't allow anyone else to go with him. We would all go to service. What gave him the right to skip out of it? He called it his religion. I only remember my mother mentioning church to him once and I'll never forget his reply.
"I learn more out there at the water than I ever will from that man's preaching."
I wondered what he meant by that. What could he possibly learn from the river water? All I learned from the river was how to get my shoes dirty and my mother mad. Or perhaps how to catch a frog without his expecting anything.
But still, my father went out every Sunday.
Finally one Sunday I didn't bother asking my mother again. I asked him instead.
"Dad, can I go with you today?"
He didn't look up from the fly he was tying. He didn't look up to see the disapproving look in my mother's eyes. All he did was nod once and say, "Yes, I guess it's about time you try my religion."
My mother didn't have anything to say to that. She just pursed her lips and went back to getting my little sister's ribbon tied in her hair. I knew she was upset, but I didn't care. I didn't want to go to church today. I didn't want to sit in the pew and hear the same man talk about the same things again. I wanted to understand my father.
I helped my dad carry his equipment to the truck. It made me feel important in a way. I also felt a little out of place. I was so used to wearing my uncomfortable Sunday best on this day of the week. It felt a bit odd to be dressed in my play clothes.
It wasn't long and we were standing at the river together. He hadn't said a word. Once in a while he would whistle through his teeth as he tied a fly to his line. I sat on a rock next to him as he waved the pole over his head and into the water.
It was so still. There was not even a breeze in the air. The water was crystal-like and showed the reflection of the trees like glass. The only motion was my father and his line, and the slight ripple it made in the water. It was quiet. It continued to be this way for some time. Once in a while there would be a slight jerk to his line and he'd reel in a fish just like that. It looked easy enough to me. I could have fallen asleep if the rock I sat upon was more comfortable.
Then after what felt like an hour or so, he turned to me. "Come over here and try this out."
I took a hold of the rod and he showed me how to work it. It seemed easy enough.
Then I felt a little tug and my father told me to start reeling. So I did.
All at once the tension was gone and the line came in quickly.
I'd broken the line.
He told me to be more gentle. He told me that the big fish that bite are going to put up a fight, that I have to be patient and they will get tired before me.
Then he took back the pole.
And I resumed by position on the rock.
What happened next I will never forget. I will forever remember the way it was. There was a tug on his line and away he went. He was in the water! He kept a hold of his pole and started splashing through the water. I didn't understand it. What was he doing? Doesn't that scare the fish away? But there was still tension on his line. He headed down the river and I followed along the bank watching until he came up with a fish the size of his whole arm.
I didn't understand it then, but I never forgot it. Now I understand what made it a religion.
We may fight with things to the point of breaking, but if we have the patience to hold on, if we are gentle and submissive, we will come off conquerer. He had waited for the fish to get tired. He had kept his line from breaking. And he had won.
I didn't go with my father on Sunday again after that. I went back to church as Mother said. But I never forgot the experience and I never will.
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