A Clear Mental Picture

The photo

It was mid-August and the mountains off in the distance — north of Nakalilok Bay — were still snow-covered. The place sits in the middle of 4.3 million acres of wilderness on the Pacific side of the Alaska Peninsula. There are no roads for hundreds of miles and it takes over an hour to get there by plane or helicopter. It is the home of salmon and bears. Though made suitably comfortable for vacationing humans — thanks to herculean efforts made by Russ and his crew of guides — still, it’s not for the faint of heart.

You take what you can get when you go there, and very often what you get is rain. But that particular morning was glorious! The tide was out, revealing wet sand and rocks covered in seaweed and other ocean life. The sky wasn’t clear, but neither was it threatening. Light grey clouds covered the mountaintops. The light was soft and very very rich. Just like it was ten years earlier.

The three of us — my son, grandson and me— were very near the mouth of the Nakalilok River where it enters the bay. It’s rare to be without a guide and ‘bear protection’ but we were — soon the whole group would assemble to wade the tidal flats for a few hours of fishing before lunch.

Jax and I are taking a breather — sitting on the rocks and watching his dad cast like a boss. “Thank you for bringing me here Grandpa — this is the most amazing place I’ve ever been.”

“Me too, I replied, and you’re welcome. There is no one on earth I’d rather be here with, than you and your dad.”

He’s an observant sort and saw the flood forming in my eyes. “What’s wrong Grandpa? 

“Oh, nothing, nothing at all. In fact, everything is as right as right can be,” I said, fighting to hide the quiver in my voice and the tears which threaten to bring the tide in early. “I’m bursting inside Jax, because I have pictured this very moment in my mind many many times, and here we are, living it. I didn’t always know I could make things happen this way.”

An excited holler and screaming reel grabbed our attention as Cooper hooked a large silver, fresh from the ocean. It makes your heart pound. As often happens, the fish bettered the angler who then muttered something unintelligible and resumed his hunt.

Jaxon looked at me, slightly puzzled, and said, “what do you mean you didn’t always know you could make things happen?”

“You’ve heard me tell you that what you think shows up in your world, right?”

He thought for a moment and said, “yeah, I guess you have. Many times.”

I unzipped the chest pocket of my jacket and handed him a photo of a moment I had cherished for years. I could recall it in my mind’s eye at will. “Look around you, Jax.”

“Whaaat!? That’s dad — in this very spot!”

Another groundswell of emotion. “Sure is,” I said. “Remember when your mom and dad gave me a fly fishing trip for Christmas? It could have been anywhere in the world. I chose here. The thing was, I didn’t think I would ever be back or do anything so amazing ever again. I didn’t have that kind of money, and it’s not something I expect anyone to do for me. But I changed my mind.”

It’s funny how you can see the wheels turning. Knowing there was probably more to the story he said, “all you did was change your mind?”

“Simply put, yes. But make no mistake, I had to do the work,” I said. “For most of my life, I just took what came my way. I had no clue about creating what I wanted. I didn’t know that thought and experience were connected. Or put another way, that I could change my experience by changing my dominant thought.”

“What was the work?” he said.

“Well Jax, that question has a long answer,” I said. “The short one is, I found a book. And better yet, I found help to actually apply what the book teaches. Life has never been the same. Without really knowing it, you’ve been witness to all it’s done for me.”

About then Cooper came up to us. “Why aren’t you guys fishing?”

“We have been fishing Coop, just in different waters.”