Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Part 1

Playing catch was peanuts: two gloves, a baseball tossed back and forth for an hour or so in a vacant lot on a Sunday afternoon, who knows where these things can lead? (Keech had a helluva good arm at the age of 12, though, which made the activity a bit formidable, but I was younger then.) Time does interesting things to parent-child relationships; when dealing with your growing child you tend to deal in the past, with the way the child was - one, five, ten years ago - the ratio varies with the parent. Treating them fully in and from the here and now is a challenge.

For example, when Keech was younger (before he went off to senior high school in the US) and wanted to go fishing, I'd take him to one of the many shores we have hereabouts and then sandbag while he fished; that was cool, and that was what I thought I was in for this time, when he said "Let's go fishing": a welcome break from our rock-moving, log-sawing and weed-whacking day; instead, some good sandbagging time for the Big B on a somewhere shore gazing up at a blue sky, chewing on a blade of grass, peacefully tending gentle herds of thoughts...

But now that time finds me at the age of 68 (in November anyway), Keech - a ripe old 26 in October - wants to go fishing in an advanced sort of way. He's always loved fishing, I don't know where he got that from, no one in my family ever went fishing much, except me for a time when I was a boy, but seeing as how I never liked fish as a food, eventually I lived up to and through the dichotomy. Now I don't like fish so I like don't fish. But sandbagging is always welcome.

Anyway, as I was saying, 68, 26: big diff. Keech (arrived here from the US on July 11) got over jetlag in a day; I (returned here July 7) am only recently fully returned. (Age has its priorities, and immediate arrival isn't one of them.) So, after girding myself with a good night's sleep, an energy breakfast and a stiff cup of coffee to make my hair stand up and give me something to emulate, Keech and I set off for the secret mountain pond that few fishermen know about and none come to anymore, since the authorities put the forbidding gate up (but we know the terrain). It's just a couple hundred meters from our house, a deep 4-acre tarn wherein unfished and therefore inexperienced fish are growing to great size in a piscene paradise of clear mountain water.

After we'd detoured to the opposite side of the pond, we plunged a good way into the hilly dense woods that line the shore, me stumbling along in the wrong shoes. I'd worn the slip-ons just for digging up some backup worms, and unthinkingly (another prerog of elderhood) kept on wearing them, even unto the rocky, slopy, rocky, viney, saplingy woods, where the first living creature we saw was a mamushi, Japan's only poisonous snake, rarely seen in the daytime - and even then practically invisible - but Keech had immediately spotted the serpent there among the fallen leaves at the base of a tree, and said is that a mamushi?

Is what a mamushi? I looked, I asked, peering, focusing, putting on my glasses, but I couldn't see anything resembling a snake. Keech pointed it out with the handle of the fishnet he was carrying, then nudged it. It moved. I saw it: yes, it was indeed a mamushi, a teenager about 40 cm long, a beautiful creature in his brown-patterned silvery gray, sort of glowing there in the dim light of the forest floor, elegant in his movement steadfastly away, in the confident hauteur that deadly venom affords... But how many more invisible vipers might there be around here? To fishermen, such thoughts bear no thinking about, when further steps are required...

[To be continued...]

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