The water was choppy. And murkier than he would have liked.
“I’ll be brutally honest with you guys, these are not ideal fishing conditions,” he told us as we climbed into his boat.
Not the start we were going for, but oh well, what can you do.
Our son, my father-in-law, and I hoped for the best as he pushed off the dock.
Spring Break took us 1,400 miles down, and we still had to go another 1,400 miles back a few days later.
So murky water be damned! We traveled too far to not catch something that looked like a River Monster.
As we idled out of all the commercial areas into the choppy Everglades National Park waters, we cruised by some osprey and their nestlings (a word our Captain taught me) and a pod of 6-8 dolphin.
Surely, out of the four hours of this rent-a-captain transaction, we’d pull some fish out of the water.
Our Captain was awesome. A story-teller. A helper. A true guide.
With his country music blaring over the choppy water and through the twists and turns of the backwaters, he was intent on giving us some memories.
But the waters weren’t cooperating. Like he was afraid of.
We tried spot after spot and didn’t have much more luck than we would have had at the pond up the street from home.
His impatience with the waters grew thin, not giving any spot more than 5 minutes before saying, “reel ‘em in, we’re outta here…”
As we raced to his next attempt at a memory-making point or cove, he would tell stories.
Ranging from his political beliefs to his fishing stories to his parenting challenges.
He was an open book, perhaps too open (you should have heard the growing up with guns in the trailer story).
As we made our way through the endless mangroves and small islands, maybe through a little bit of fear of him taking us off the grid forever and having alligators eat us for lunch, I made an insensitive comment to cope.
“I mean, this is where you’d come if you wanted to hide a dead body…no one could ever find it.”
“Oh, that reminds me…” he jumped right in.
He went on to tell us about this guy, way back when, who left the northeast and made his way down the coast, eventually landing in Florida.
He was a crook, a murderer, a swindler. Captain told us about all the guy’s transgressions.
“He was a bad dude. But you know what, most people that come down here are running from something. They’re not all crooks like him, but they’re all running.”
In between empty casts, I kept thinking about his comment.
We’re all running from something. Maybe not to Florida, but we’re running away somewhere.
Or at least, we spend portions of our lives running from something. I know I have.
The tricky part is when you’ve tricked yourself into believing you’re running to something that it covers up the real motivation, the running from something else.
Running from fear. Running from the past. Running from the present. Running from the pain. Running from the insecurity. Running from the risk. Running from the loss.
Hoping the proverbial Florida will be so exciting, so new, so bright that the reality won’t set in.
But it always does, or at least it has in my life so far.
Maybe we all have to run away though, in order to find out the running from game doesn’t work. At least not in any meaningful way.
It has to break.
We realize we run out of running room eventually and all the problems ran right in our footsteps and they’re still there with us.
Maybe it’s in the exhaustion of realizing we can’t outrun what we’re running from where we start to realize what we can run to instead.
Running to, or even limping back to, something is much better than running from.
Oh, and our Captain finally found the hole where the fish were biting on that choppy, murky water day.
We spent the whole day running from hole to hole, and finally when we were all about to give up and quit running, Life gave us a gift in the form of a good-sized grouper.
We set him free and then ran back as fast as we could to tell the people we love all about it…