What follows is a fishing story, so you can believe it or not.

One beautiful spring day I was fly fishing on the Pleasant River, standing thigh-deep in cold, snow-melt water. I was trying to concentrate on the fishing, but a recent anxiety-producing experience was troubling me. A natural control freak, I can’t help but try to control most everything in my life.

For example, I do all the grocery shopping and most of the cooking in our house, so I can control what I eat. I studied a martial art for 13 years so that if ever faced with a physical attack I could, hopefully, control the situation.

Even my desire to write, if I’m honest with myself, is rooted in my need to control all the messy, uncontrollable aspects of human life. This is especially true with my forays into fiction writing, where you create the entire universe in which your characters exist. Their personalities, actions and fates are completely in your hands. Sweet, godlike control.

While freaking out on the river that spring day, I noticed, in a tree high above me, a perched bald eagle. You frequently see large aquatic birds when fishing, but an eagle sighting is rare. I admired this glorious predator for a long moment, then closed my eyes and tried to refocus on the fishing, calling on my recently reinstated meditation practice.

I listened to the rushing water and strained to clear what Zen masters call “monkey mind” – intrusive, random, discursive thought. When I opened my eyes again after a few quiet, meditative minutes, I saw a large trout in casting distance, rising to the surface. I immediately covered him, dropping my dry fly right in his feeding path. He passed. I cast again, but this fish wasn’t buying it.


I became frustrated, finding myself unable to control yet another life situation. Suddenly, the forgotten eagle above me swooped down like a dive-bomber and hit the water feet first, snatching up “my fish” with his powerful talons and taking off with a mad flapping of wings.

I was stunned. Surely this was a sign, a cosmic message: Human nature preaches, Mother Nature teaches.

Standing, defeated, in the ice-cold water, I remembered the personal Serenity Prayer I’d invented for myself whenever I got too uptight: “Let the world turn.” It does, of course, day and night, season after season, without any discernible help from me.

Thanks, nature. Lesson learned.

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