My brother Don also loved to fish. Whereas he hunted mainly in the fall and winter, he fished year round. And in addition to those mounted racks, four largemouth bass also adorned the walls of his study. Don was more of a tournament fisherman than he was one to collect trophies, however. He practiced the catch and release philosophy both when fishing with friends as well as when fishing for competition. He cherished the days he could take out his bass boat on an early spring Saturday morning to cast the day away with a good fishing buddy. Fishing was special for Don, especially when he shared the sport with his long time best friend, Steve or his regular tournament partner, Mike. It was even more special when he fished with Lisa, his wife or Brent, their son.
Whether in the woods or on a lake, Don embraced all that nature had to offer. He connected with the streams, the trees, the fallen leaves that silently crumbled beneath his boots as he walked. He took pleasure in and celebrated the true fecundity that surrounded him with every opportunity that he had to spend in nature. And Don always appreciated those opportunities. He felt blessed to be able to have and develop this relationship with nature as he fished and hunted.
Nature has something to offer all of us. It provides lakes and rivers to lull the day away in peaceful bliss. It provides forests and woods for hunting or walking or hiking. It provides a sanctuary from the confines of rooms and buildings of this more mundane world. Nature offers a place of refuge for the fisherman, the hunter, and the hiker alike. It provides solace and comfort when the everyday tasks of life overwhelm. I think most of us want to connect in some way with nature. We want to escape from the obligations, the bustle of the world of clocks and schedules. We long to, like Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman, search for tranquility and feel that as we approach the end of this life that we have truly lived.
When I arrive on Springer next March, I will carry my brother Don’s memory with me every step of my hike. On beautiful sunny mornings I’ll greet him just up around the next bend in the trail or just over the next crest of a peak. I’ll see him by the lakes I pass. On rainy, cold miserable mornings, he will remind me that I have this opportunity to walk to Maine, this privilege of enjoying all that nature has to offer every day of the journey……and I will continue. Whenever I see a deer, whenever I cross over a stream, and yes, if I encounter a hunter in the forests, or see a fisherman, rod in hand, strolling toward a lake, I will remember Don, my brother, and I will be grateful. As I have stated before, In March I will begin my attempt of a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. What awaits, I won’t really know until I get there. Each day will be the same; each day will be different. But most importantly, every day will be a day I remember my brother Don and a day I am thankful for all that we shared on this earth together.