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Literary Connections…

My good friend and fellow aquatic hauntee, George Jacox, posted earlier today about books, specifically fly-fishing books he liked. He elaborated a bit on his main thesis. George’s post drew a rather agreeable comment from our common friend, William (Bill) Schudlich. Bill’s comments got me to thinking. First off I just had to make this comment:

—-

Shoot, y’all just named half my ‘special selections’ library’.

As well as the Maclean books – I re-read each of Middelton’s book’s mentioned by Sir Willie of Schudville .. and I do hope one day to get a copy of Rivers of Memory. I so want to read this book! And – if I my ship stops sinking – MAYBE – a copy of, The Starlight Creek Angling Society! I would love to own this book. But I would just like to actually see, hold and read one!

I also totally agree that Traver (real name: John Voelker) books and stories are must reads; with Trout Madness and Trout Magic list high. Voelker was a personal friend of my good friend and colleague from the Traverse City , MI area, Dave Richey. When you speak with a person who actually had, on-the-water/in-the-woods, intimate knowledge of a legend like Voelker, you get a sense of just how much one can miss by not being in the same arena, venue or age. CARPE DIEM!

Then I got to thinking about other books – besides my shared enjoyment of those mentioned by George and Bill. I started to go over some other books I’ve read – and re-read – over the past few years. So a list began to form. But not just a list. What began to form was a much deeper meaning than just reading good books. There was – and remains – an intimate relationship with the books I read, the people I know, icons I wish to meet, passions I love to pursue.

Especially any of the above fortunate enough to also coincide with just about any value on the subject of FLY FISHING.

It’s not merely about literary interest … it’s vastly more important than that!!

Here’s my addition to the conversation:

1_ Anything by Thomas McGuane .. but especially The Longest Silence. This is a book title one should read, ponder and practice.

2_ Paul Quinnett’s books: Pavlov’s Trout (the quintessential book on Outdoor Ethics!); Darwin’s Bass and Fishing Lessons (should be requisite for anyone taking to the water! Paul is a clinical psychologist and developer of the QPR (Question, Persuade & Refer), Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention program. Paul knows a thing or two about the benefits of fly-fishing!

3_ M.R. Montgomery’s, Many Rivers to Cross .. wonderfully imaginative – yet at times, heart rending – a culinary delight of Western fishing for it’s vanishing native lands, vistas, ecosystems and it’s most desirable, cold-water citizens.

4_ Anything by David James Duncan .. most notably for it’s popularity – The River Why. But, if you’ve not read his book, My Story as Told By Water – you have not found the reason for WHY, Maclean could write, “I am haunted by waters.” Read it and you, too, will find your explanation.

5_ Every word written by John Gierach! PERIOD. The guy is a veritable Pied Piper of Fly Fishing Story. There are few writers – from any genre – whom I can read and re-read their work – on any page, at any time – for any length of time … and enjoy it every time. This magical aura surrounding Gierach’s writing never ceases to amaze me. He’s constant in his ability to addict the reader.

6_ And – not because this book is a piece of literary wonder, but because it keeps me in remembrance of a fine man, whom I miss very much: Tight Lines, Bright Water Water- by Dave Engerbretson. It’s a good read about a man who loved, life and enjoyed helping others do the same: in all aspects possible in the grand outdoors: freshly mowed backyard or deep wilderness. There are still times- when I find it hard to believe I cannot just email or call this jolly fellow – my good friend – of such incredible aquatic pursuance knowledge. So, I annually re-read this book… and regularly scan it for tidbits of remembrance. It’s a good habit that I shall continue to nurture.

If there’s a special outdoors/fishing/fly-fishing/hunting or whatever person, who has impacted your life; who is no longer living: if they’ve written a book – or if only a card, letter or left you with a recording or a simple phone message: revisit it: often. Recall their ‘voice’; that energy that made them special in your life; to your life. Keep their flame alive for you. Then, Pass It On, to light the way for others. Pass On… their remembrance to others, so they too, can get to know your special people. Everyone needs to get to know special people. This is a priceless gift to the future.

Carpe Diem ! Seize every moment, every minute of every day – do so with gusto – and renew the definition of:

WHY? …

“…fly-fishing is such a magical place, with magical moments, made more wonderful, daily… by the magical relationships… between, man, water, fish, feather and fur.” – Sam Stovepipe, Sage of Gar Island

Keep the passion going. Read. Remember. Restore.

My Life As Told By Water, by David James Duncan

My Life As Told By Water, by David James Duncan

 

The River Why, by David James Duncan

The River Why, by David James Duncan

Trout Bum, by John Geirach

Trout Bum, by John Geirach

Pavolov’s Trout, by Paul Quinnett

Pavolov’s Trout, by Paul Quinnett

Darwin’s Bass, by Paul Quinnett

Darwin’s Bass, by Paul Quinnett

Fishing Lessons, by Paul Quinnett

Fishing Lessons, by Paul Quinnett

The Longest Silence, by Thomas McGuane

The Longest Silence, by Thomas McGuane

Many Rivers To Cross, by M. R. Montgomery

Many Rivers To Cross, by M. R. Montgomery

Tight Lines, Bright Waters, by Dave Engerbretson

Tight Lines, Bright Waters, by Dave Engerbretson

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Next Season

All season long, every day looked promising. He was so elusive, but you were sure the Buck would finally walk into your sights.

But it didn’t happen.

You could feel that big buck just writhe with glee – if that is possible for a deer – when he dropped another can of ‘deer season whoop-ass’ on you again.

Why, you even got a bit of a chuckle.  “Dang! That deer is schooling me hard. Givin’ me a complex you are Big Boy. A regular complex!  Next year. That’s MY year. You wait and see who’s laughing then. Yeah!”

Alas this season ended on the same note as the previous 3. Despite your confidence filled pronouncement, you got your butt kicked again:

Hunter 0  …  Buck 7.

Seven times you’d come to the hunting ground.  Seven times, in hand, a perfectly engineered planned.  Seven times YOU went home seeing nothing more than beautiful sunrises, memorable sunsets, dozens of birds and small animals.  You observed as nature used the shade creatures, formed as the clouds, dancing across the sky to trace the passage of time for all in attendance; you included.

Each day that passed, you left the woods later and later.  Sure the hot coffee, soup and a very welcome, 3 fingers of Scotch, were always a luring siren.  But a stronger pull; even stronger than the urge to hang the Buck on the cross-beam, was keeping you in the woods.

In the early days when you first started hunting you didn’t understand.  It just didn’t figure! Dingle-crackers!… it was cold, wet, tiring, cramped, windy … it was down-right miserable at times.  But so many times, you didn’t even notice it.  You even began enjoying it.

That’s it.  You stayed longer because you just plain liked being in the woods.

After a time, you began to realize that finally, you had begun to act natural.

Everyone who is veteran hunter of a few years, knows that no one needs to head out to their stand at 4am in the morning.  Only a masochist or a neophyte would do this.  Right?

Well, yes.  For the first few years.

Then you would just keep on doing it, because you realize there’s no better place to get your morning shut-eye, wake-up to warm coffee and a roll, see the sun rise, hear the birds wake-up ritual and watch the entire woods world come to life.

Any questions?

Naturally you did your fair share of eyelid surveys. Most likely this was when the Buck got His chance to see you as well. Yeah.  if you hadn’t been having such a good time you might just have taken that ‘big bad boy’ home this year.  Eh?

But you never laid so much as an eye-twitch on the Buck. Yeah. That’s true. That’s OK. There’s next year.

To keep in pattern with the previous years, you religiously went back to the scene of your miserable failure to revel in it’s success.

Because you knew he still roamed the hills, woods, creeks and swampy bottoms.  He was still there; whether you were or not.

The wind would drop and the frost clinging to the trees, glistening like diamond dust with the first rays of the sun would shimmer in place; or the high-noon shadows pouring through the leafless canopy would suddenly go mime; or the misty glow of the forming evening fog would provide a sanctuary backdrop for the moment you’d see him.

Ah, but not before He had slipped silently out of his bed. Never quite revealing his ‘serta-in-the-grove’, stealing his way to a splendid spot, befitting of his regal offering: your annual chance to see Him. Then He would offer his annual greeting snort. On cue, as choreographed as a Shakespearean actor, you look up!

There HE is.

Wow!  He’s grown so much.  His rack has become huge; intoxicating.  His massive shoulders and neck still showing the muscle and blood engorgement of the rutting and mating ritual and exercise.

What a sight He is.

What an opportunity. Yeah, you think, “OH! If only it as still ‘in season’! If only I had my bow! If only …”, but this fades and gives way, to just .. “Wow. He is beautiful. I know he’ll spook and be gone for another year. Wouldn’t I love to capture this image to look at any time of year?” And that’s when you raise the camera and take the 3 photos you get before He is out-of-sight.

Make no mistake about it … this IS His domain.

You know it.

He knows it.

So do all the other animals in the woods.

“Yes.”, you say to yourself.  The the ephemeral wisp of the moment takes on a Brigadoonesque atmosphere.  Time just seemed to stand-still while He stood there.

Surrounded by the royal walls of his riparian realm.  Each woodland surface draped in the muted glow of the diamond dust of late fall frost.  Winter is soon to appear.  His rack will once again fall, feed the mice of the woods and possibly tantalize a woodsman seeking the fallen coronets.

The ice fog hangs thick across the winter wheat field in the distance. “My, Oh, My!” You repeat to yourself as you remember how it provided the ermine backdrop so fitting this royal creature.

The fog begins sending drizzles. skittering down through the branches now as you make you way back to the truck.

One last time you turn and look at the opening where He, The Buck, stood, showing Himself to you. A shiver runs through your system.  No, it’s not the cold.  It’s the anticipation.

You’re already planning the Next Season.

Sankalai

Nothing moved.

Not sound. Not time. Not my mind.

Everything was in lock-step frame.

Only my eyes were in motion. But not real motion; scanning, perceiving, transmitting. They were only in a primal recording mode.

Time – and everything in its being – was on hold.

Three months earlier I had set out across the vast array of preserves spanning the wild back country of Botswana. I was in pursuit to find and locate the perfect bull elephant for my wall.

No. Not pursuing a dead head, with lead, but an image of pixels.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hunter and I don’t have a problem with pulling the trigger and delivering lead to a target. However, I reserve that option for animals I will personally consume. Elephant is not on my dietary list. Therefore, I personally don’t shoot them to kill them.

I neither condemn, nor condone the actions of those who do kill these beasts.

In some instances the killing of the giant beasts becomes a necessity. An unpleasant reality in our over-crowded and resource strapped world, it has become a necessary, if not unpleasant business.

Managed kills are accomplished, in many instances, by sport hunters with large wallets and a lucky draw. The economics are sound. The fees paid do bring beneficial stimulation to strapped economies and to provide funding of protective forces; Game Wardens; for numerous species occupying the killing fields.

For me, though, there is neither pleasure or purpose in killing these amazing beasts. Thus I would not participate in the killing – outside of self-defense.

My preferred wild life capture technique is through the lens of a camera. The end uses for my efforts, find themselves as varied as the subjects themselves. Mostly though, they are a record of my life experiences while leaving only historical preservation as any trace of my being there.

Whether animal or vista, each is chosen for visual consumption in the same manner. I venture into the grounds, I pursue quietly and unobtrusively. I observe and note particular habits and quirks of each environment as well as the season. All of this is done long before I partake of its riches. In the truest essence of the word, I am hunting whether it be animal or location.

Whether for myself or for my clients, I choose the hunt carefully. The KEY word here is …choose.

Two months, 26 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes later; after 12,000 plus kilometers had been tallied on the Land Rover’s odometer; and numerous blistered seat-rashes had been recorded on my butt; I was still without the photographic goal.

Oh, there were photos. By the gigabyte. They would be filling my larder of visually stimulating projects for years to come.

But, the trophy bull elephant image, was still only a dream.

That is – until 5 minutes ago.

The morning had opened with the customarily expected noise of the bush. A slight breeze and the ubiquitous hum of the insect life: good, bad and the ugly. A chined offering, conjured a raspy pied-piper allusion, floating on the breeze with the chatty voices of the birds. This day had begun like any other.

But there was a different air about it.

I sensed a moment coming. The only question was, would I be ready for – IT?

Captured moments don’t just happen. They are the result of planning and execution.

Yet, regardless of the effort put into getting into that moment, the exact timing -when it happens- is never a known commodity.

The three axioms of Moment Experience Planning are:

  • You are in charge of preparing for the execution.
  • You have a shot at being at or in the execution.
  • But, you have no control over the timing of the execution.

Thus, in reality we are never really in control, of anything: at any time. We are only along for the ride. Learning to ride the wave of the unknown, toward -hopefully- an exhilarating conclusion we can survive.

That’s the rush. The excitement. The draw of it all.

Of course anyone can experience a moment by accident. It’s what we call, luck. Such encounters more often result in lost, rather than in captured, opportunity.

To hedge one’s odds for realizing the full impact of any potential moment, work. Every element must be brought as far as conceivably possible, toward a successful conclusion – fully expecting the moment hoped for – to execute. This is the ultimate thrill, in a moment experience.

Preparing for the moment and getting into it, is the very heart and soul of HUNTING.

Hunting, contrary to the vacuous opinions of the uneducated, is not about killing. Hunting is about properly executing on a vast array of knowledge. Any part of which, found out of order, could spell failure with little to no hope for a mulligan. All of this is necessary before any consummating opportunity to kill is presented.

It is therefore, quite possible to hunt and never kill and still have a great hunt. But, equally true, the hunter can never know the true power within the hunt, without consummating the hunt with a kill.

Misunderstood by many:

Not every hunt must end in a kill to make it a good hunt. But equally true – a human must experience the mental and spiritual challenge that is found only in the kill – at least once – to fully appreciate the value and power found in the responsibility that rests with the choiceto kill or not to kill. This is not a lesson learned intellectually.

The scene that unfolded before me, in that split-second of time, was as unplanned as any in all my life.

I had no control of – or over – the moment.

I did have control of the use in that moment.

The camera found footing on the monopod.

The lens drew its focus.

The synapse began firing in reflex mode and the hold was as smooth as any trigger hold ever executed. As in anything in life that exudes success, timing is everything. And this moment was all about timing.

When the shutter stopped firing, 14 frames of one of my most memorable experiences in life had been captured. The span of that moment-in-time, was less than 24 seconds.

The bulk of life is truly the Journey and not the Destination.

But it is the Destination, to which we look, for Journey justification and the dream of a return.

I will return.

Thus, two months, 26 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes… and 23.7 seconds later… I had my bull elephant trophy.

And so do you.

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Ma Pek

MaPek

The sun rose slowly on the horizon as the waves lightly lapped at the expanding shoreline. Like insects the small long-legged shore birds swarmed around the foam and surf searching for a morning meal. Each one skittering along the beach in a dueling dance with the waves. The early morning breeze – gone by midday in the steamy tropical environments – lightly lifted the palm fronds with each rhythmic pulse. Each lap of the waves upon the shore was another sultry, psychiatric summons to the senses. As I was inhaling this idyllic scene a movement up the beach caught my eye.

I watched as he made his way from the tree line to the waves, the morning sun – full promise of the heat to come – glistened off his richly pigmented skin. Years of exposure to the tropical sun had given his native brown the deepened tone of gold as it glistens in a setting sun. The deep furrows in his skin were not mere wrinkles, they were the mental storage tracks – not unlike those of a phonograph – recording the years of living and tales lived.

His eyes, though dark with age and tempered with wisdom, sparkled with the strength of youth. Though his hair bore the salt and pepper of age, it still flowed with the charm of a young man in his prime. I could tell he was different- he had been a leader. Even at this distance, he projected the quiet but powerful aura that moves the elements of life… for him and others.

As I moved among the villagers in the open-air markets I enquired of the man whom I’d seen earlier. Yes, they knew him. It only took the mention of where I’d seen him and a short description before I was told glowing stories and legendary tales of the man, Philippe del Pescador. The pronouncement of his name not only produced the smiles of admiration from the announcer, but from those within earshot as well. Then a chorus of commentaries, tales and praise would follow from every direction.

Around the village he was known as “nuestro padre de la pesca”. That is, in his native tongue, “our fishingLow Tide father”. In the height of his day, Philippe was the most prolific fisherman on the Yucatan coastline. He was fearless and formidable. His passion for his work, life and the ocean were unmatched by any. Yet, for all his competitive spirit, Philippe was also a man of genuine compassion and heart. There was not a fishing boat launched from the Isle de Corazon that was not, in some way, made possible by Philippe. His days as the fisherman to match were now history, but his legacy lived on.

In his early days he made friends with both the locals and the foreigners who came to pursue the great game fish of the Gulf: marlin, tarpon, blues and shark. Philippe was the man to have at your helm to find the trophies – he was the man to bet on for success. He was also the man who would keep you from trouble with the sea and who make sure you come home to shore – alive and brimming with tales of adventure that you sought.

He had grown up as young boy fishing with his father and enjoying the life on the gulf. He wanted nothing more, nor asked for it. He was strong in character and deep in his convictions. He pursued fish for a living, but would do all in his power to educate his fellow fisherman and the foreign pescadores in how not to harm them or their habitat: fish were his life in every possible way. He had, on a number of times, lost business because he refused to compromise his principles or ‘his fish’ on the foolishness of monetary gain.

I had to talk with this man … to find out what made him who he was … and to meet such a wonderful example of humanity. So I made my way back down to the shoreline where I’d seen him earlier. But another stood there … a woman. She was dressed in the colorful dress of the locals and despite her age she was a beauty.

I slowly approached and addressed her, “Señora de la buena tarde.” She turned and graciously bowed and replied, “Señor de la buena tarde.” “Pero no soy una mujer casada, yo sigo siendo soltero.” A bit embarrassed I acknowledged with apology, “Perdondeme, la senorita!” She chuckled, quite pleased with the coupe and the fact that a woman of her age was obviously still in possession of what makes young girls … well, young girls! We talked until the sun began to sink below the horizon.

She knew well Philippe … possibly better than anyone in the village. For Philippe was the reason she was still a senorita: he captured her heart but would neither let it go or subdue it. She asked if I would like to join her for dinner. I then asked her, “ Senorita, we have talked for hours and I do not know your name, nor do you know mine.” She again giggled with the gentleness of an eight year old, and told me her name was Juanita Sanchez. I acknowledged her – told her my name and I graciously accepted … knowing there was much more to this story and that I would acquire the details only if I talked more with this lovely lady of mystery.

In her humble little home we partook of tasty corn tortillas, frijoles and fresh vegetables. She even produced cold bottles of the local beer: oh, how wonderful a cold drink is when you’ve been without it for a week! The meal was modest, but had been prepared and presented with the greatest of care and grace. After dinner we sat on the veranda, sipping strong coffee, as I listened to the story of Philippe del Pescador.

Philippe, as the stories told to me by the villages, was a great man in the community. He had learned well from his father. The senior del Pescador was a man of great strength and muy carismático … un hombre de la grandes fuerza y carácter. He was also a good and honest man. He had helped many of the fishermen of the area get their start and then worked to show them how to be successful … and how to maintain the fishery. Philippe was by his side daily, learning all this from his father.

One day during a fierce storm Philippe’s father was swept overboard, lost in the raging sea and his body never recovered. It was a terrible time for Philippe, his family and the entire village: they all had lost their leader.

Philippe and Juanita had grown up together and shared much in common: including their love for one another. They had planned to marry, but those plans were dashed with the death of Philippe’s father. Philippe knew he had to step-in an attempt to carry-on in his father’s place. He also knew he could never fill this father’s sandals … but he must carry on the legacy: that was his purpose in life. This level of commitment did not have room for a family. So, Philippe made the sea his family and the life within her were his children. Juanita was devastated at the loss of her love … but in time she grew accustomed to her role as “mistress to the Sea” … and she and Philippe again were inseparable.

Through the years of fishing and working Philippe had built a good business. But more importantly he’d built the honor and respect of his fellow citizens of Isle de Corazon. The years had been good for fishing and the villages’ livelihood, but Philippe had paid a high price for his success. Juanita and he were never able to broach the barrier between them and his duty to his father’s legacy. Though he and Juanita were never married he took care of her as if she were his wife. He built her the house in which she lived, supplied her with food and money. He did more for her than most men do for their ‘actual’ wives … and Juanita could not help but love him all the more for it. I was amazed … and in awe of the power of the love I was being introduced to. I knew this example would forever change my life … and how I would perceive love.

Their love for each other was immense. In many ways it was far more complete than most who had married and live together in that union all their lives. I began to see that they shared what many have lost sight of … true love of the person, not for the person. They were complete in knowing the other was satisfied in their role and that the greater good was being served: not by just one, but by both.

A great pair of companions: the ultimate mates.

The night grew on and it became quite late. I bid my farewells to Juanita, thanked her heartily for the wonderful evening and for sharing such intimacy with me a stranger. She graciously thanked me for the company and the opportunity to share the wonderful story of the love of her life. She then asked if I would meet her the next day at the boats where we had met that day. She said that tomorrow was a special day for she and Philippe and that she wanted me to be present. I thanked her for honoring me with such a request: I would most definitely be there. I said goodnight and walked into the balmy air of the Yucatan night.

The next morning dawned a bright red all along the horizon. ‘Redat morning… sailors’ warning!”

The old salt rang in my ears as I arose to wash and prepare for the day. It will rain today — it will be day to be watched closely — on the sea: rough weather is ahead. I was very excited; looking forward to meeting again with Juanita and being introduced to Philippe.

My mind raced with questions to ask of Philiippe; of the days of fishing; the famous and infamous people whom he chartered; talking with him about his ethic of the sea – I was so much looking forward to meeting this remarkable man. So much so that I barely noticed the change in the weather.

I was just putting on my sandals when the wind began to pick up. It was light at first, but it was constantly building in force. By the time I reached the beach the palm fronds were no longer merely wafting in the breeze, it was more like they were be ripped from their petioles! I didn’t see how anyone would be able to have any type of ceremony on the beach in this weather … and then I saw him: Philippe. Dressed in his finest, looking to the beach and walking in a straight line, from the last line of palm trees, in that direction.

IT was when he was in full stride, midway from the trees-on his way to the beach- that I saw the group. How could I have not seen them before? There had to be the entire village – all dressed in their best clothes and all around the boat … the red boat … the one I’d seen Philippe standing by the day before. The boat with the name I did not understand … words I did not understand: Ma Pek.

I’d assumed yesterday that it was an oriental name; possibly named by someone who had spent some time in Southeast Asia. I was going to inquire about that name yesterday, but in all the events of the day I’d forgotten. Now that name began to haunt me: along with all these people. What was happening here? In the midst of this storm? I had the feeling that the answer to that question would be intriguing; how, I didn’t know, but I just felt it would. Then I noticed it; or better yet the lack of it.

The wind had stopped. Just as suddenly as it began it was over. The clouds opened and the sun came rushing through. I was just beginning to register all of these strange sensations, when I saw Juanita.

Wow!

Not only was she gorgeous — but, if I didn’t know better I’d say she was dressed in her wedding gown. And just as suddenly as I’d began thinking this … I knew I was right! I was at a wedding! But not just any wedding — it was Juanita and Philippe’s wedding! But why during a storm? I could understand the beach … but in a storm? Was there something special about the storm? Their lives – lived apart, without the fulfillment of a marriage they both desired – was nothing shy of a torrent of emotions. Was this why the storm? Or was there something else? Torrents of questions-searching for answers-flooded my senses. Then before any fulfillment to this could occur, the crowd began to collectively gather in a ceremonial sway.

The crowd that had gathered now formed a circle around Juanita and Philippe. From the land side of the circle came a mariachi troupe playing traditional Mexican wedding music and with each rise in the music more of the people began to sing. Soon the entire village was singing, the clouds were gone, the sun softly shown upon the beach and all was right with the world. A priest appeared and the ceremony began.

Suddenly there was an air of calm covering the entire beach. The people are calm and all are drawing in toward Juanita and Philippe. The air fills with the words of ceremony and the soft sounds of a coastal Caribbean sea shore: lapping waves in rhythm and the gentle breeze known so well to all. The priest finishes the ceremony and Juanita and Philippe look long into each other’s eyes. The look speaks volumes. Years of conversation are being relayed on the most sensual of paths possible: eye-to-eye – heart to heart.

Then they move to kiss. And quietly … in nearly the tone of a prayer Philippe looked deeply into the sparkling eyes of his new bride and says, “Mi amante mas querido, el amante de mi corazon. Mi corazor compitiendo con a usted.. pero digo a mi corazon — ma pek … ma pek.”

There! There were those words: ma pek. The name of the boat. What did it mean? It had to be powerful because tears were forming in Juanita’s eyes. Then they kissed. A short but electrifying kiss. As soon as they parted the crowd began to sing; they cheered, and for minutes they applauded the event all had awaited for years to occur.

The crowd formed a line and the mariachis played as they swayed up the beach and headed out to the village streets. I stood there watching when Juanita … just a few feet away turned and looked in my direction. She smiled and then mouthed those words … ma pek … ma pek. She must have seen my confused look. She smiled then pointed to a spot on the beach where a shore bird was facing a rather large meal in a lively crab. Obviously the bird was tackling a meal that was bit larger than normal. But this did not deter the bird. Juanita quietly said, “Mire allí… the bird is patient. It will not be impatient. It will wait quietly. It will be ma pek …it will be still. And when it is time …it will eat …and eat well. Learn from the bird … ma pek …be still and all will come your way.” She beamed and continued on with the procession.

I stood there; tears forming in my eyes and realizing I had just received a unearthly value in those words. I turned to watch the bird … it was eating: eating well. Have you ever seen a bird smile? I have.

A flood of emotions rushed in familiar torrents of questions through my mind, as I stood there at the gravesite. My mind was laboriously filtering through the emotions experienced in the short time of passing events of the past few days. As I looked upon the faces of the two caskets in front of me I was embroiled in a sea of mixed emotions. Only days earlier I witnessed these two wonderful human beings as they were united in a life-long desire … a life they both had desired for years: the union of marriage. But today, I stood before their now lifeless physical containers incased in emotionless wooded containers: their last physical abodes. I’ll not attempt to question or debate what lies beyond the physical life we so dearly strive to maintain and enjoy. But, I will affirm that these two lived a more complete life in the last days they had together than most live in a lifetime.

I was saddened to have lost access to their physical presence: so much was not explored by me. And yet I sense a value that will only deepen with time; the wonderfully blessed event I have been privileged to have been involved in; having a part in their wondrous lives at all.

I came away with a deeply learned and valued lesson from both … ma pek. In all things … ma pek.

by Juaqin Cay