Biophilia

Posted on July 26, 2011

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We practice catch-and-release. At least until she can fillet her own panfish! Bye-bye baby first fish!

“The troubles of modern life come from being divorced from nature.”

Isaac Asimov

Her first fish was a Red Ear Sunfish.

Standard ultra light rod and reel.  4lb test monofilament.  Small hook and live earthworm.  2 foot lead from small red/white bobber.

She had trouble casting over the edge of the railing, so I cast it and set it up.  I had her reel it in.

“It’s too heavy,” she said.

The rod tipped down and the fish swirled in figure 8s below.

So I grabbed her hand and helped her lift the rod.

The fish was landed.

She touched it.

It counts.

Hand-sized 1/2 pound first fish!

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Catching something is primal.

It connects you to a long line of human history when gatherers became hunters.

We react to it in very physical and visceral ways.  Our adrenaline increases.  Our senses are awakened.  Heart beat, water ripple.  Heart stop, strike splash.

But, the thrill of the first catch teaches you three important lessons about life: patience, persistence, and positiveness.

My first days of catching were done on my own.  I was in 2nd grade living in Texas.  I had a small hand net and a bucket.  I went to the bayou by our house and crouched low among the cattails.  I leaned precariously over the slow moving waters hoping to net a guppy or minnow.

In time, I learned to patiently wait until the minnows were close enough to the rocks by shore before I plunged the net through the water.  I’d gather a few, making sure to always leave plenty behind for my next adventure.  I also learned to keep a wary eye for aggressive water moccasins that arrowed through the water towards your heels and feet.

I would take the bucket home and show my dad.  Then, I’d usually take them back to the bayou.

After a while, my dad clearly understood I was interested in fish.

I was pretty much interested in all things animal.  During one summer camp hike, I picked up a copperhead because it looked pretty in the fallen leaves.  I showed it to a few kids before taking it to the camp counselor who freaked out and screamed at me to let it go.  I did the same a few weeks later to a coral snake.

My bucket journeys continued until my dad finally bought a 20 gallon aquarium.  He prepped it and did everything to set it up.  Then, my brother and I took off for the bayou again and filled the bucket with crawfish, mollies, guppies, and minnows.

We set up the aquarium as a “science” experiment.  I’d monitor it and make sure to feed them and track the progress of the fish.  We had a few pregnancies.  We added a few tadpoles.  I watched baby minnows born.

We also had some drama with the crawfish.  We named one “Darth Vader” because he was a deep dark burgundy.  He was also huge.

The other two weren’t named.  That is, until Darth Vader took off the claws of one of the smaller crawfish.  Thus was born Luke Skywalker.

I drew pictures and my dad took photographs on his Pentax K1000.  I assembled a tri-fold display board and presented it to the school’s science fair.

Blue Ribbon.

During these days, I learned how to identify and catalog fish with a fish field guide.  I had one for birds because my grandmother started taking me birding when I was only 4 years old.

As I used the guide to identify the tiny minnows and mollies, I learned about much bigger fish like the Largemouth Bass and the Northern Pike.  I dreamed of some day catching one and landing it on my own.

However, my first fishing expedition started the same as my younger netting days.

My grandmother generally took my brother and I for several weeks during the summer months.  My family would drive the highway south to Corpus Christi and my brother and I would be left for a few weeks in the care of Grandma Y.

My grandmother decided to take us fishing.  Of course, upon our insistence.  She had a dozen fishing poles in the garage rafters and they were never used.  So, why shouldn’t she get them out and put them to use?

We had them out, oiled, and ready for fishing in one day.

We got into the car, drove down Ocean Drive along Corpus Christi Bay, and stopped near some shallows.  There, Grandma Y got out of the car and took out a seine net.  We got waist in the water, and walked slowly out and then created our circle.  We dragged it up and found scallops and crabs and tiny shrimps and even some bait fish.  We put everything into a floating live bait-bucket.  By this time, the sun was starting to get low in the sky.  I thought for sure we’d start heading in, but Grandma Y said that this was the best time for fishing.

And just like that, my first lesson stuck with me.  Fish liked twilight.

That evening, using modified “Carolina” rigs, we caught nearly a dozen speckled sea trout, and brought them home to cook and eat.

With that lone experience, I began to understand the value of having a personal relation with nature.  I couldn’t put it into words, but there was a sudden connectedness I felt with my surroundings.

Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed the outdoors and feeling connected to nature.

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What The Girl experienced today was another moment in her biophilia.

Ever since I’ve watched her, she’s been curious.  She puts her hand in the dirt. Goes after bugs of all shapes and sizes.  Asks the big important questions.  Studies all aspects of nature, earth, universe.

With all of the “expert testimony” on how children using technology will be smarter and quicker and more intelligent than their predecessors, children today are still losing out on important connections to nature.

In fact, many new research suggests that children who encounter nature on a regular basis grow up to be happier and healthier than those who spend a majority of time wired.

Just look at what a video game might entail.  Sight, sound, hearing, and touch. Yet most of this is done indoors in a very “clinical” setting.

Just look at what going fishing might entail.  Sight, sound, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.  All naturally given and taken.  All done outdoors in fresh air.

I’m not decrying video games or the benefits of computer use for children.  I’m suggesting that children, and even us adults, need that connection to the outdoors.

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Back in 2005, Richard Louv wrote a book called Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.

In it, he suggests that “the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation [lead]. . . to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.” (website)

What I hope is that by connecting The Girl to nature, and by doing so with other students at the new school in California, the future generations will become more compassionate caretakers of our natural resources.

Besides, you get in very little trouble when you’re sitting and fishing.

Kokkiree and The Girl watching the water for bites on the bait . . . waiting.

Guess what we’re going to do tomorrow?

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