I diligently prepare my gear for a trip across 1140 miles. Truck, train, truck, airboat. South Florida - a trip I deserve. Dozens of pin minnow lures are separated from similar sized jerkbaits, all of them thrown in together over a summer of bass fishing. Dried grass and dead bugs lurk in the corners of each little cubicle in the gear boxes. "Ship to store" boxes wait for me at a half-dozen locations, full of soft plastics in just the right colors and just the right glitter for South Florida's waters. The last major piece of gear - a Penn Battle II 5000 reel for my new surf rod (Tsunami Airwave) waits in the front seat of the truck.
I have worked hard this year, and I have missed a lot. I've not fished or hunted the way I like to, or as much as I like to go. I've not taken my son fishing as often as he deserved to go. I didn't take my wife out as often as she deserved. I shouldered a 1000% increase in my department's budget at work, and with help from my staff, we succeeded. The success will eventually pay career dividends. But the cost was the many things that did not happen because I wasn't there to make them happen.
I heard the news today that a new friend and colleague is dying. He is roughly my age and has led a much healthier and more successful life than I have. I know him to be purposeful, which in my mind and heart is one of the most important things a human being can be, after being considerate and contemplative - words that also describe him. He received a sudden and very late notice of the hand he's been given. The impact in his social circle is significant, and I'm just on the outside. I didn't have time to get to know him better. I just didn't feel like I could make the time. I could and should be better friends with some of his friends, who are devastated and trying to pick up the personal and professional pieces as they fall. But since I haven't deployed myself into those relationships, they simply don't exist at a deep level.
I sit in my basement in December and I separate freshwater hooks from saltwater hooks. One splash of mangrove water on the deck of the kayak will render the freshwater hooks useless. They have to be in their place. Everything in its place - some guarantee that proper organization will lead to a positive outcome. It's been only a few months since my friend Brian killed himself. I hadn't seen Brian in 15 years, or even bothered to try to contact him. As my old friends become increasingly separate from our old camaraderie and succumb to lifelong mental illness, new friends of the same age are dying from disease. I never thought that being 40 years old would be like this. Absolutely untenable separation. Unpredictable death. Repeat.
It's commendable to ensure that the freshwater hooks are segregated from the saltwater gear, its galvanized and aluminum treble hooks intact and ready. But it doesn't matter if the freshwater hook isn't ever wetted on the end of a line. What has been saved? I tend to make good decisions about fishing and hunting when I have a good understanding of how much time I have on a given day. I wonder if I would make more purposeful decisions about my personal life if I know how much time I'm truly being given - maybe it would matter less what I feel like I deserve.
Tomorrow, I won't be the double-bagged freshwater hook, protected from the forces of nature, hidden away. Maybe the salty air and water should do its worst. Time will pass anyway, and a hook worn down with salt is more memorable for its effort and impact than a hook left in the box. See you out there.