Today we celebrate all the Mothers in our lives. Generally fishing is thought of as a male sport or activity. Images of fathers fishing with their sons or daughters pop into my mind. But when I think deeper than those images, I realize my mom also had a lot to do with my love of the outdoors and my love of fishing. My first fishing memory is from fishing at Medford Lakes, New Jersey. My aunt, uncle and two cousins lived in Medford Lakes, which is a small town centered around several small lakes. Many of the houses were log cabins and were facing the lakes as waterfront property. Quaint and charming are words that match well with my memories of the town. The lakes were connected by a series of smaller stream channels and culverts. My Mom would take my sister and I there frequently to visit our family as we were growing up.
As I grew old enough to fish, maybe as a 5 or 6-year-old, I would walk to the nearby lakes and streams to fish with my cousins, uncle and my Dad. At first, I caught mainly sunfish with my family. One day I walked across the street to fish by myself, thinking I would catch a bass or sunfish. The first fish I caught was a pickerel. I brought it over to show my family, not knowing what the fish was, and my uncle colorfully warned me to look out for the sharp teeth of the fish. As a young child, I became terrified. I was not looking to fish anytime soon after that, even as my mom comforted me.
After my shock and fear that I was going to be attacked by that pickerel, my Mom continued to support and encourage me to canoe and spend time on the water. She explained to me that fish were looking to find food for themselves but didn’t want to bite people. About ten years later I caught a largemouth bass on a spinner bait and my fear of fishing had been completely replaced with excitement and enjoyment.
My Mom also loved the water in general and took us to parks, such as Cunningham Falls, Lake Waterford, and back to Medford Lakes. I went to camps at Arlington Echo where I further learned to canoe and kayak. When I was in college, my Mom and I took a kayaking class on the Potomac River, which was fun to learn and participate in.
Both of my parents had a great love and respect for nature and for learning. That mindset and background helped shape me to continue my love for and learning about the environment. As a teacher, my Mom was always looking for learning opportunities either for her children, her Sunday school classes, or her Elementary School classes. Over my childhood, sometimes begrudgingly, I participated in many of those events. In hindsight, I believe they helped me build my interest and passion in learning about the environment that has driven my career and my appreciation for the outdoors.
My mom is excited that I found a passion for fly fishing later in my life and that I am sharing it with my kids. She reads my blogs and encourages my writing. She is a constant source of encouragement but is also a great role model. She is an avid gardener and loves to spend time working outside weeding, taking care of plants, and cultivating her garden. Her work ethic has also shown that that caring isn’t enough on its own. My mom shows through her efforts that hard work and dedicated actions are what produces results, not just good ideas and kind words. Her tireless dedication to her church, her family, and her garden are more examples for me to follow of her commitment and thoughtful actions.
As we are quarantined and governmental recommendations for social distancing and business closures are slowly being relaxed, we can begin to reconnect with each other. During this time, some families are together, and others have been separated. Too much togetherness can drive you crazy, but these opportunities for uninterrupted connection are incredibly rare. Conversely, periods of isolation are lonely but can provide time for us to contemplate the impact of others in our lives. Both of these scenarios can show us to be grateful for all the gifts and blessings we have in our lives. I hope that when we begin to reconnect it is with a greater depth than we experienced previously.
It is easy to focus on difficulties during tough times and to focus on the things we have lost or aren’t able to experience. Rumination and wallowing are easy for me to fall into, feeling sorry for myself or worrying about so many potential bad scenarios is something that is also present during periods of stress. My Mom taught me and constantly reinforces to always be thankful for all the gifts we have been given. Every Monday she sends an email to our family updating us on all the happenings in her life and all the things she appreciates about her experiences. Every sentence she writes in every email she sends ends in an exclamation point. Everything is a learning experience and a blessing! Even when it may not seem that way at first. That helps me to not get stuck too long in periods of rumination.
There have been recommendations to reconnect on the phone or by video with family or friends you haven’t seen in some time. As the world changes and things are less hectic it also gives us more ability to prioritize the things we want in our lives. If we can see the connections we value, the activities that give us joy, and all the blessings we are grateful for, we will have the opportunity to be in better shape after this pandemic than before. I love and appreciate how my Mom has given me the self-confidence, tools, and belief structure to have a life that fulfills me and opens opportunities for me. That structure has helped me find fly fishing and the fantastic community that aligns with my appreciation of nature and the outdoors.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!