Thursday, July 28, 2016

Missed Opportunities


Sometimes I have to kick myself. I'm supposed to be a story teller. A reporter. But more often than I'd care to admit, when looking through photos of recent adventures, I'm confronted by the story angle I didn't pursue. The question I didn't ask. The opportunity I completely missed.

This picture of Daniel, studying the water, struck me in just that way.

I fished with Daniel for three days in Saskatchewan, out of the Arctic Lodge, and enjoyed every moment. We covered hundreds of miles of Reindeer Lake water and caught as many pike as we traveled miles. We laughed at each other's jokes, gave each other good-natured grief, and generally did what fishermen do. We fished. But I should have dug deeper. There was so much more to learn than how to catch northern pike. Stuff much more important.

Like how he'd been guiding this lake for forty-four years. How it had changed in that time. How the people, both those who lived here and those who came to fish, had changed.

Like his Cree ancestry and his involvement in the Paul Ballantyne First Nation. How his people are interwoven in the northern Saskatchewan landscape. How they exist and thrive in this harsh world.

Like how his grandchildren live with him, call to him, Papa, as we pass them as they swim in the cold lake waters beside his camp on the shore opposing the lodge.


Like how he was a tribal sheriff, or MP, or some manner of peace keeper that makes sense in the Cree context. I never fully understood, but that's not surprising.

Like his interest in the moose tracks along the shorelines and his knowledge of the movement of pike and his ability to identify birdlife from incredible distances. His connection to this place and its creatures.

Like how he lost a son, though this is a subject that we are both slow to discuss. We let it pass with a simple acknowledgement, a trite agreement that there's nothing remotely just in such a thing, and a prolonged shared silence. A bond wrapped tight in emotional barbed wire.

So I herewith apologize to you, dear reader, for failing to do my job. For not bringing back the story of a fascinating man, his community, and his history. A history that has as much to do with this beautiful and rugged lake as it does most anything else.

And, more personally, I apologize to Daniel for not getting to know him, and his story, better. In my defense, I was enjoying his company too much to pry.

I guess I'll just have to go back and get it right the next time.

9 comments:

Steve Zakur said...

Agreed. Lots of missed opportunities. But you can't get it al...

Mike Sepelak said...

You can't? Well that's a relief.

Marc Payne said...

Awesome Mike. I still hate you guys. Trips like that don't just linger in memory, they merge with your soul. Great read bud. EXCELSIOR!

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks, Marc. Hate is such a strong word. But then I think back a half-dozen years to your Yellowstone excursion and I know exactly where you're coming from.

Kirk Werner said...

The questions you posed, here, but did not ask, there, coupled with the photos, provide partial insight to a man whose life has undoubtedly been one worth exploring. Please go back and finish the story.

Chris Hunt said...

All the guides were great. I missed the chance to fish with Daniel, but Otto had great stories, too, as did George. Fishing with native guides is a real treat.

Mike Sepelak said...

That's the plan, Kirk. Care to join me?

Funny how rotations play out sometimes, Chris. Would have liked to fish with Otto myself, though George was fun too.

Arthur Ofieldstream said...

Mike... your post is what haunts me - and countless others of us - who go afield regularly.

There we are, in hot-pursuit of every tidbit we can find, and feel so well nourished while in the mode. Yet, when we return home, we are appalled by the paucity of photos ("What the hell was I thinking?", is my most common retort when going through the first run of images ":\ ) and the equally Saharan-moisture-free details on the Who, What, When, Where. Followed by a resounding "Shyte!" and a hopeless promise to "Get it right next time!"

I went out on a neighborhood all-day fishing excursion (yet to write up the report - too many other writings... uh, like this .. bumping the time line) with my buddy Ed. We had a marvelous time on a truly beautiful run of small creek water in our backyard - figuratively. I took photos and short video clips. Only one photo of Ed. Some of the scenery and the obligatory (all underwater) photos of the species of fish we greeted and released. But I should have had 150 images to choose from. Instead, I have 30.

So, it's not you. But that doesn't change the end game, or lessen the feeling of ‘missing it’ - does it?

At least your gent is still breathing and the good Lord willing he will be so until you can get back. But I dare say we ALL have an all-to-long-a-list of folks whom we did not talk enough to, ask enough questions of, take enough real photos of, or just visited or called more often — when they were alive! I know I have. And I hate myself regularly for it. Promising to NEVER do that again.

Well, that old saying has teeth, bites often and takes flesh.

Bottom-Line... you are, just like the rest of us sorry reprobates, HUMAN.

You will try next time. Maybe you'll get more; maybe not. But at least you WILL try.

Here's to the collective string-bow around our collective-finger:

“Remember to fill the larder for the post-event times so the disappointment will not be as harsh.”

Yeah. I know you feel all better now knowing you're a member of the Clan, Missed-It. Right?

Hei, I didn't make the rules. I just live on the bloody edge like everyone else.

So. How long have you had this problem? Does it affect you often? Can I get some shots of you in your grump-phase? How about next Wednesday? Game?

How’m I doing?

":P Great story - that you didn't write - BTW. ": )))

Mike Sepelak said...

I'm always in my grump-phase, Arthur. Thanks for the support and perspective. :-)