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Father's Day at the Pond

06/21/02 12:00AM By Willem Lange
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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange loved Father's Day not because he thought he deserved it, but because he got to go fishing without guilt.

(Lange) There are very few peaceful days in my year, days when my conscience doesn't perch on my shoulder, reminding me of jobs undone. On those rare days, I can do what I want without worrying about what I should be doing instead. Christmas is one; the morning after a blizzard another. And Father's Day.

What is so noble about fatherhood that it deserves such recognition? It's easily achieved, as I recall, without any unpleasant effort. Its pains and pleasures are largely mental. It involves a significant investment of resources that otherwise could be used for personal pleasure; but the eventual return on the investment is persuasive. So it's clear to me I don't deserve to have a day set aside to honor paternity. But Mother and the kids do it, anyway. And I let 'em.

I get the meals I don't get normally because nobody else can stand them. Then for days I discover Reese's peanut butter cups in my tool boxes, in the shower, in the adding machine, in my pajamas. Following a mishap a year ago involving my truck glove compartment, I don't find them there anymore.

But the greatest pleasure of the day is being told to go fishing. That's an order I'm delighted to obey. Last Sunday evening was no exception. The twilight pond was perfectly peaceful, reflecting hemlocks and maples. Barn swallows swooped and towered above the water from the sheer joy of flight. A mosquito whined softly around my head.

Then, at the far shore near a dead tree stump, the water boiled suddenly, and a set of rings spread quietly. In the alders to my right, I heard the "slurp" of a large trout grabbing an emerging nymph. I could feel the surge of anticipation that's been the same since aboriginal man crouched by waterfalls with sharpened sticks during the salmon run.

All around me, bullfrogs harrumphed softly. In the bushes above them, red-winged blackbirds and phoebes chirped and chattered, knowing something was about to happen. In the swamp a toad sang loudly for his lady love.

On the bottom of the pond, triggered by the setting sun and the cooling water, a whole generation of mayflies began to hatch. An irresistible urge brought thousands of wriggling pupae, all at once, up out of the mud and leaves at the bottom of the pond. Swimming to the surface, they split their skins, spread wings to dry, and flew upward by instinct to mate, lay their eggs, and die.

Only a few made it. Trout grazed among them as they floated helpless, drying their wings. Then the blackbirds began to pick them off the water, and as the survivors rose, phoebes and bats, like aerial vacuum cleaners, plucked them from the air. Nature in balance, I reflected, is hardly peaceful.

The image of the new moon shimmered in the water; and for this one moment, there was nothing else to do but enjoy its perfection.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.
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