Written by Taco Olmstead.

Each Monday, since Elise received her cancer diagnosis, I now fish. A gentleman I met a couple years back, upon hearing the news reached out. He told me both his parents have been stricken with this horrible disease. His mother had survived her breast cancer diagnosis, but his father is in the final stages of his fight with prostate cancer. He told me he goes out into the woods and waters each Monday in defiance of his everyday life to seek the serenity that in the mind of most every angler, can only be achieved by surpassing the previous upstream cast by a more perfect drift than the last. It is in that honey sweet moment that serenity is found and acceptance laid bare as you watch a trout rise to your offering.

In the picture below, a rather ordinary brown trout, but I assure you, in my mind, this moment is beyond ordinary. This moment, was indeed felt to be something more akin to divine intervention. If you have the time to read on from here, I’ll give you the explanation.

Lately, I have found myself fighting back tears every moment of every day. The machinations of the mind can so easily overtake a struggling soul. There are moments though, where the tears burst forth not from sadness but from gratitude. Gratitude for a most wonderful union of friendship and community. A community where bonds are forged of emotions wrought from the melodies and brush strokes of a culture born of art and music. When you feel that connection to so many, when you have witnessed the joys and the struggles that brought so many to the altars of the creative and to the celebration of that calling, it is a commentary on the divinity of the true nature of humanity. The Truth is that we are far more beautiful, more caring, more altruistic, more kind than we give ourselves credit for. So what do these thoughts have to do with this fish?

Fly fishing is a solitary sport and this aspect is one which I find myself most attracted to. There is a joy I find in the silence of the forest, where no murmurings of the insecurities of men exist. I am an introvert at heart, I truly enjoy these moments of solitude. When I fish with a friend, it is unlike fishing with a client. We do not fish side by side critiquing our cast or approach. Instead we each embark on our own journey upon the waters and into our very souls.

This past Monday, I found myself struggling a bit with the reflections of waning sunlight, a heightened sense of bone chilling air temperatures and a mangled leader handicapping my presentation of small flies on a glassy pool. There was no serenity for me but rather a spiral downward into negative thoughts where I found myself wondering more about a finality in my current struggles. It was a dark place in my mind. I stopped and looked to the heavens after a retrieve and simply asked for a little more strength, a little more wisdom, a touch of serenity. To make this picture all the more poetic, my approach to this glassy pool was on bended knee and painted a picture of submission to a higher power. Tears were in my eyes as mists rose from the spring fed waters into the frigid air above. Then light slowly was cast upon me and the waters as a brown trout rose to a small midge hatching on the surface twenty feet upstream on the slick.

I raised my rod and began peeling line off the reel. This was no place for false casts and missteps. I would only get one good cast that needed to be placed between the three swaying tufts of river grass where this trout was repeatedly rising. One last strip, one well placed synchronized cast six feet upstream with a short mend to my line and my size 28 black and grey usual found its home in the parted lips of my quarry. Together, the brown trout and I were brought together as he raced upstream and down taking me to the bottom of the pool to the top repeatedly, stretching my delicate tippet and resting my patience.

In those moments, time slows and seems to almost stop and a million thoughts can be had in a millisecond of time. A musician had tied that fly on the end of that line. An artist had recommended the very rod I was fishing with. A fellow music fan had told me of the section of spring creek I was fishing. That moment of serenity in solitude would have never happened had it not been for the communal gatherings that so often are the accompaniment of art and music. That moment of peace in my turbid heart would not have been found were it not for the culture and community I am so heavily immersed in. It would not have have been possible if it weren’t for each artist, each musician every fan of music and art I have encountered and shared time with. That moment was a culmination of all that I have lived and breathed in this community. A teardrop once born of sorrow was transformed in a moment to tears flowing forth from the gratitude for being a part of this community. This fish was not a reflection of solitude but rather a reflection on the beauty of the culture and community that we are all a part of.

My heart is full and I have found an abundance of not just hope but a security in knowing that we are truly one great and wondrous family.

Thank you, see y’all this Friday at the 8×10 in Baltimore, Md for Home for the Holidaze with LITZ, Swift Technique, Catullus, Sun & Rain and We the People. What a wonderful family indeed!