A View from the Hill: Gone fishin’

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Nature can be frustratingly unreliable. I mean nature nature, not human nature, but that too.

Like the geranium on my deck that never does anything except tease me with a juvenile pink blossom that hasn’t changed in weeks. Fish that don’t show up. Wildflower seeds that make no effort to even germinate. 

Andrew MarstersStuff like that.

I just get so frustrated when things don’t do as advertised, and it’s usually things in nature. Everything else – the dishwasher, my iPhone, my car, ink pens – dutifully perform for me through their expected lifetimes.

So what is about nature? If mere mortals can make things that always work, why can’t nature be more dependable?

There’s a big rock in the ocean near a beach, unseen except twice a day when the tide recedes. My son-in-law – we’ll call him “Dean,” and he’s not legally a son-in-law if there is such a law, but he’s wonderful to my daughter, her daughter, and my great-granddaughter, so I call him my son-in-law – says he catches striped bass there all the time. 

Last year he sent me a photo of a fish he caught there. I asked him where the rock was. He said he had been sworn to silence. But in the background of the photo, I could see the house my daughter rented for a week one summer. Bingo.

My son and I went to the rock last summer and threw most of the stuff in our fishing boxes at it.

Nothing.

“Dean” texts photos of his catches, including one he sent June 8 of the biggest striped bass he ever caught. Forty inches. So big that it was against the law to keep it, which he didn’t.

“Caught three others that were all 27 (inches),” he texted.

I texted back a naughty word. Well, two words.

A couple weeks later he texted that he had “caught one short (meaning small striped bass) at the rock.” The photo he included was not of the little fish. It was of Dean’s hand with a hook through a finger.

I texted back: “Two great catches.” I should have had more sympathy.

Recently I went to the rock alone at half tide and studied it from every angle. Then I circled the rock maybe 20 times, casting and retrieving, casting and retrieving. 

Nothing. 

I got home and emptied the dishwasher, which I had turned on when I left hours before. Everything was perfectly clean and not an ounce of water had leaked. Just what I expected. It’s nice to be able to rely on something.

As I write this I am looking out the window at a different geranium. When I bought it it had one red blossom on it. It still has that same blossom. I Googled “geranium.”

A website told me: “With their large multi-petaled blooms, they can make quite the statement anywhere in the landscape.”

Except for mine.

The fancy-pants seed supplier in California from whom I bought five bags of expensive wildflower seeds made a similar claim.

Since I’d proved inept at raising vegetables last year, I decided this year to dedicate half my garden plot to wildflowers. I enriched the soil. I waited until two weeks after the last frost. I removed every single weed. I followed the directions to the letter.

I pressed the seeds into the ground, gently, as I was told. I watered them, as I was told. They would emerge in two weeks, I was told. They would be stunning, I was told. “What a great idea,” a neighboring gardener said.

Yesterday was the three-week mark. All the gardens around me were bursting with color. The half of the garden that I had seeded with wildflowers had turned green with many varieties of little sprouts.

Excited, I photographed them with an app that identifies plants. Weed. Invasive species. Weed. Weed. Weed. The worst culprit was purslane, which is aggressive and edible but nobody likes it. 

I grabbed a shovel and dug the whole thing up. When I got home I opened the fridge and pulled out a cold one, which was cold, which was just what I expected. Good refrigerator.

Nature can be so annoying. I’m going fishing. That should calm me down.

Andrew Marsters is an award-winning Maine journalist and former journalism instructor at the University of New Hampshire. He lives on Munjoy Hill.

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