Desperate to Hook a Keeper

By Steve Carr

My impassioned fisherman friend catches more fish than I. By making his art a science, he has found more joy in the hobby. He reads the river, the weather, and the season. He knows better than I where to find his quarry and never tires in his quest to land the big one. Although nearly all his catches are gently returned to their cold-water homes, I swear, he never fails to catch the keeper. He has fine-tuned his fish radar.

Is there an analogy here, perhaps? Must I consider fine-tuning my “writer’s eye” by writing? You mean I can’t dabble my way to perfection? This is just a hobby. The appeal of the act of writing is there’s no sun in my eyes, no frosty chill down my back. My light is warm and muted, my toes toasty. Only I will ever know for sure which moments are captured in the flesh or in the ample recesses of my mind. How hard can this be?

I’ve been told that real writers look for stolen moments, captured flashes that are easily missed. Always on the hunt, an observant writer is curious and even titillated by passing obscurities. It stands to reason, then, that if I were to begin to live and observe with impassioned purpose, I’d know better where to look and how to recognize the keepers. Yet right this minute, as summer explodes around me, I sit at the computer, frozen, wrapped in indecision, having neglected once again to recognize and then use last month’s experiences as research and fodder for this month’s column. Landing a topic as a casual hobbyist while my deadline fast approaches can be as frustrating as trying to tie the right imitation to your line as the fish boil around you and the sun begins to set.

So my sad cycle continues. The endless Idaho skies beckon, with no cold breeze to make me shiver. I’d rather be there than here. Desperate, as usual, I merely begin typing, hoping against hope to catch the big one. Instead, my desperation catches don’t put up much of a fight and I throw them back.

Witness scene one:

Downtown Boise, just beyond the Farmer’s Market, marks the beginning of the end of the annual Kids 5K run. I’ve never run a distance race, never before watched. My wife and I stumble out of the coffee shop to find the first of the runners charging toward the finish line: big and small, red wagons and wheelchairs, cheerleader mothers jogging backwards alongside. We gaze longingly into their triumphant eyes, trying to steal a bit of their champion hearts from behind the spectator barricade. We’re transfixed, and our coffee grows cold. We’re unwilling to leave until every runner receives our ovations and the respect of our inspired hearts. When we do go, the lift in our step is uncaffeinated. Is this a Finding Nemo scenario? I fear it’s too sentimental to be the right topic for a column.

Another scene:

I was in the store with my mother awhile back, helping her look for a laundry bluing preparation in the cleaning aisle. Shoppers nowadays aren’t big on bluing, which used to be popular to counteract the yellowing of sheets and other fabrics. No one could help us find it. Mom intended to apply the product to “clinkers,” the chunks of burned residue that have to be removed from her old coal furnace to make it work efficiently. She’d add non-iodized salt and re-create some chemistry from her Twitterless youth for the grandkids. Then they’d forget it and the knowledge would be lost for good. As a topic, I suspect that’s a bit obscure. What felt like a trophy fish at first was just an old boot.

No big catches. I should keep casting about, but I’m weak. I admit with disappointment in myself that I don’t have the passion. Maybe one day, but not today. The blue skies and gentle breezes call.

As for landing a column this month—sometimes they just aren’t biting.

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Published by Steve Carr

Since you asked, Steve Carr is a recovering attorney, who can be reached at scarr@prodigy.net.