As I've said in previous blog posts, I am not a huge outdoors person. There's tons of bugs, dirt and all kinds of other things that just don't give me “good vibrations” to quote a classic song lyric. But, I also know that if I avoid things I don't enjoy I'll miss out on a lot of enjoyable moments.
One such moment was a trip I took with my family to Bennett Springs in Missouri. It is a state park that has a large spring running through it. People come from all over to go trout fishing, camp and enjoy the beautiful scenery. My in laws' family has been coming here for years and therefore, my family joined in on the tradition.
As I begin this story I need to tell you that we traveled with my father-in-law. He is an outdoorsman extraordinaire. He has been to this spring many times and is full of fantastic information on where to catch the best fish, how to hold your rod and the classic things you would think of when going fishing. So, I was in very capable hands. Not to mention I think it was his goal for the week to help me catch some fish. He has always been very encouraging of me in these situations, especially knowing that I am not a huge outdoors person and have limited vision. That being said, on with the fishing…
Wade in the Water
When I was a kid, the type of fishing I did was off of the bank of a river. Of course, I did a lot more playing around on the bank than fishing, but that is my memory of what fishing is like. However, fishing in the spring was a little different. My father-in-law had discussed getting me some waders and going out into the spring. I guess I knew what he meant theoretically, but actually doing it was an entirely different situation.
We got up at what seemed like the crack of dawn, though I'm not exactly sure when dawn really cracks. Does anyone know that? Anyway…let's just say it was early. We got dressed, ate a quick breakfast and began to get ready for our first trip out to the water. Again, I had never been fishing the way that my father-in-law went fishing. But, I'm nothing if not a good sport. So, I pulled on the waders and fishing vest and did my best to look the part of a fisherman.
When we got down to the spring, the instructions were to slowly walk into the water and shuffle your feet. Many a person have gone down under the water for lack of being careful. Or for lack of being sober, but that's another story.
I did as I was told and slowly made my way down into the stream. Of course, the floor of the spring wasn't exactly smooth and flat. So, finding my way around was the first challenge. But, I overcame that and found a good spot to stand and get ready for the fish to come in.
Let me say at this point that the water was very cold. I had plenty of clothes on so it wasn't terrible, but I guess I assumed it was going to be like a sauna or something. Just shows how little I actually experience the outdoors, right?
So, there I stood next to my father-in-law and my son, who was around 9 at this time. Sadly, both of them had more experience fishing than I did. We began casting our lines and hoping for the best.
Here is where my inexperience and sight impairment really came out to play. First of all, I had no idea how far away the other side of the spring was from us. So, I didn't really know how far to cast the line. Plus, I really didn't know how to cast the line. That being said, I did eventually get into a rhythm. My father-in-law was full of great advice and helpful tips. He was very encouraging, much like you would be with a young child learning a new skill. I don't mean that in a negative way. I really was like a young child learning a new skill. Actually, my son was doing a lot better than I was. My only advantage over him was that I was taller. Not sure if that was a real advantage, but just thought I'd mention it.
Another hard thing here is that we were standing next to people who were also fishing. Now, you might not think anything of that, but the issue was that their fishing lines were out there in the water somewhere as well. And, because of my lovely lack of sight, there were many a time in which I got my line tangled in theirs. But, my father-in-law was always quick to tell me not to worry and then untangle me. And, to their credit, the other folks out there were always very kind to me. I guess they could see the “newbie” plastered on my forehead.
We ended up going fishing quite a few more times that week. I caught a respectable amount, though I think some of that was due to my father-in-law saying, “Hold my pole for a minute” when he knew he had a fish on the end of the line. Like I said, I think he made it his goal to help me catch a fish. And, he definitely succeeded.
A Fish Out of Water
I wouldn't say that I love fishing now. I wouldn't say I am going to spend a lot of money of lures, line, reels and other words I know but aren't sure of their meaning. But, I can say a few things with certainty:
First, I did enjoy myself that week. No, I was not the greatest fisherman out there, but I really wasn't required to be. All I was required to do was get up, pull on those waders and get out into the water. All to often we think that if we are going to do something, we have to be amazing at it. And, with sight loss, many times we simply can't be amazing at something. But, I didn't need to be amazing. The time with my family was amazing all by itself.
Secondly, I learned that many people don't care that I can't see. My father-in-law never mentioned that I would suck at this because I couldn't see. He never told me that I wasn't going to catch a lot of fish because I am a visually impaired person. And, he never even implied through words or actions that he was annoyed that I coudn't see. I sure was, but it didn't seem to get to him. He cared about me and wanted me to enjoy myself. And, I think that is one thing we have to keep in mind. We often feel like a burden and hate the fact that we can't see. But, if you look around and really pay attention, it's probably bothering you a whole lot more than it is bothering the people in your life.
Finally, I know that if I had let my sight loss and fear of the unknown stop me, I would have missed out on a great trip with my family. Again, I would probably choose something indoors for vacationing, but we had a great time out there. In fact, sight loss really wasn't a huge issue. It actually wasn't an issue at all.
That week I wasn't a visually impaired person. I was a husband, daddy, son-in-law and, dare I say it, fisherman. Nothing stopped me from enjoying time with my family and getting to experience things that I normally wouldn't get to experience. Plus, the place where we bought our fishing licenses and gear had ice cream, so I was set for the week!
Is there something that you feel like you wouldn't enjoy or would be terrible at now that you can't see that well? My encouragement to you is to just get out there and try it. You may find that it is a lot mor enjoyable than you realize, especially if you are with people you love and, more importantly, love you in return.