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A "Peace" of Humans

It was a nice, warm late summer day, perfect for sitting outside. So I decided to go to a local park near a small, lazy river and sit in the shade. I opened my computer, looking forward to doing some writing in the open air and without the temptation of jumping online, since the park was nowhere near any available Wi-Fi.

Shortly after I sat down at a small wooden picnic table, an older gentleman arrived with fishing gear.

As I worked on my computer, he was also at work, laying out his gear on another picnic table near the water. After a few moments, I found myself more interested in what he was doing than my own work.

While I’m not a fisherman (is that still acceptable or should I say “fisherperson” or maybe just “fisher”?), I was taken in by his process, and how carefully, routinely and “Zen-like” he laid out his stuff, baited the hook and finally, cast it into the water, slowing reeling it back in.

I guessed that by keeping the bait moving under the water, it gave the fish the impression that it (the bait) was alive and swimming. Again, not knowing anything about fishing (or the cognitive capacities of fish), I figured that to be the case.

If it were me, I’d continually cast and reel in the bait (whether it was the preferred strategy or not) simply because I do not possess the patience to stand or sit still, so motion – whether productive or not – is always my friend.

Anyway, for the next few minutes, I split time minding my own business and his, and while I didn’t want to join him in the activity (I’m more of a “stick-and-ball” sportsperson), it relaxed me: the water, the sunshine and a single fisherman/person lazily casting and reeling, casting and reeling.

At one point, he laid the rod and reel on the bank and returned to the picnic table. (Let the record reflect that if I ever went fishing, I can tell you with 100% certainty that the very moment I’d lay my rod and reel on the ground and walk away would be the precise instant a large fish would bite, leaving me to chase the rod and reel down the bank and into the water as the fish pulled it downstream, further and further out of my reach until it was gone forever.)

From a large backpack, he pulled a can of Corona, opened it, looked left and right (as though the authorities might swoop in at any moment), took a large swallow, set it on the table and returned to his fishing pole. Every few minutes, he’d return to table for another pull on the can. It was semi-covert, as though anyone would care that he was drinking in the park on a weekday afternoon, even though signs announced the prohibition of any alcohol on the premises.

After quenching his thirst, he’d go back and pick up the fishing pole, slowly and methodically casting and reeling in the line, bobber and bait (maybe a good name for a fishing shop) as though he done this a million times before (because he probably had).

After 15 minutes in which I wrote a paragraph that should have taken five (had I not been taken in by the previous scene), my attention turned to a group of ducks, a “raft” I believe it’s called (a “paddling” is also acceptable). I like ducks. They’re funny without trying to be, in their shape, movements, the sounds they make and how they seem to interact with their surroundings without really caring what’s happening.

By my count, there were 17 in all, and the group appeared to be comprised of both grownups and adolescents, the equivalent of high school freshmen (if ducks went to school), paddling, waddling and quacking near or in the water; calm cool, and collected.

I wrote another paragraph, and then another. And after a few moments, I was in a groove, leaving the guy to keep casting, reeling and drinking his beer, and the ducks to do “what ducks do.”

Then, out of nowhere, I heard a faint noise behind me. I couldn’t identify it. It was guttural, like when someone is trying to clear their throat. I looked back to find six Canada Geese (a “gaggle”) had invaded my personal space. Quietly, they had surrounded me like a small gang (but they weren’t since a “gang” is a group of buffalo).

When I turned to face them, all stopped what they were doing (eating grass) and looked at me as though I was sitting at their table (or maybe as though I’d brought beer into the park, something the sign on the pavilion announced was forbidden and they had been called to confiscate it).

Because Canada Geese are big and what I’d call “unpredictable” (though I have no proof to back up the claim), I became uncomfortable. I slowly put my computer in my backpack (which did not contain any beer) and backed away from the table and the geese, ultimately inhabiting another picnic table some 100 feet away. The geese – obviously neither interested nor afraid of me – simply went back to eating grass, probably thinking, “Humans are so predictable.”

Anyway, between watching the ducks and the encounter with the geese, I had failed to notice that the fisherman/person had gotten a bite. (You let your guard down for one second …)

Suddenly, his day had changed from his bait the hook/cast/reel in/drink/repeat routine to one of action.

He reeled and reeled, and I looked on, not sure whether to root for him or the fish. (I mean, he seemed like a nice, unassuming fella -- one you’d want to cheer for -- but seriously, if I’m the fish, I’m not too happy that 1) I was tricked into thinking that stupid mealworm or slug was alive and swimming and 2) I now have a hook buried in my cheek.)

Seconds ticked by as the guy reeled in the fish, and then, within 10 feet of shore, suddenly the line went slack, and he ended up pulling in an empty hook.

“OK, that’s good. He got his excitement, but the fish got away,” I thought, deciding I’d root for the underdog rather than the predator in this case.

As the fisherman/person baited another hook, I went back to work (after, of course, making sure the ducks were still “ducking” and geese were still “goosing”). And it was nice. It was peaceful and save for the temporary trauma a smallmouth bass or bluegill suffered, everyone involved just did what they came to do.

At times, we all minded someone else’s business: the ducks pecked at one another, the fisherman/person upended a small part of a fish’s day, the geese let me know that – gang or not – they determine who sits where in this park, and I, well at times, I minded everyone business.

But in the end, after the fisherman/person gathered his gear and his beer and headed for home empty-handed, the geese had flown off to the other side of the river, and the ducks had all taken to the water to swim upstream, we peacefully coexisted, together and apart, unique but all the same … with different goals and objectives, beliefs and routines, all of us just looking for a place to relax, work, play and just be without any problems, hassles or arguments, respecting others whether or not they looked like us, shared our interests, followed the same passions or abided by the same rules (of nature, the park or otherwise).

And after they all left to go on with their respective days, I thought to myself, “This could work. I’d call it a ‘peace’ of humans.”

© 2022 David R. Haznaw

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