This is the image that comes to mind every time I think of home. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. My good friend John Milcetich was late for our fishing trip as usual, so I decided to make my way out to the channel to watch the sun rise over downtown Fort Myers. At the time I didn’t know this sunrise would be such a monumental moment in my life, but I certainly must have thought it was something special as I find myself currently looking over the 100+ photos and video I had taken from that morning.
I remember as I watched Jack, the neighborhood Great Blue Heron, fly by me on the way to his hunting grounds. He was the first to teach me that the early bird catches the worm, as he always is the first bird up in the morning and also the first with a fish in his beak! Jack is an admirable character, and I must say, looking back on it now, he has taught me many important life lessons. The most important virtue I can attest to learning from him is that of patience, the most essential skill an angler can possess.
As I patiently waited for John, I watched the sky as it transformed from a dark blue and dull grey to that of a very vibrant magenta and lively orange. It never ceases to amaze me that just a turn of the earth allows this giant ball of gas in space to light up our world with such radiant color. Without the sun, we’d never be able to see all of the beauty that this world has to offer. Truly it is a gift that most of us take for granted every single day.
A large Tarpon rolled before me in between the green and red channel markers that indicate a safe passage home for a weary angler. An occurrence that was once not too uncommon in my backyard, but a sight sure to get my blood pumping every time. I remember staring at the hole in the water left by the Tarpon, thinking, “Come on John. We have fish to catch!” Looking back on it now, it’s no surprise I became so hooked on the water. I was constantly surrounded by it. Whenever life got tough, I’d spend a little time on the water, which always seemed to change my mood for the better. It’s really quiet therapeutic, and so tranquil early in the morning.
By 7:15, John finally had made it to the dock, and we were ready to embark on yet another epic, summer adventure. A morning that was not to be forgotten any time soon, as we managed to catch many Snook and Redfish in just a few hours. To boast, John caught what inshore saltwater fishermen refer to as an inshore slam, consisting of a slot Redfish, Snook, and Trout. A feat that is not easy to achieve.
As I scroll through page after page of photos, I find tears rolling down my cheeks. Someone that knows me through my work might think that it is because, in 22 short years, I have been fortunate enough to experience and see more on the water than most will in a lifetime. Those who know me personally might think it is a result of the many lasting experiences this beautiful place has gifted me. My first memory, my first friend, my first fish, my first kiss, my first love, my first loss. While all of these things have a special place in my heart, this is not why I weep.
I weep for those who speak to me so loudly, yet have no voice. I weep for those who may never have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful things I have been so fortunate to experience. I weep for the animals, the birds, the fish, the mangroves, the people who see what I see and feel what I feel, and of course for the water that has given us all so much. I weep because come next Monday morning the Lake O discharges will be a thing of the past, and certainly of the future, but no longer something worthwhile of present concern. I weep because while everything seems to be changing to me; nothing has changed.
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