Up For Anything (How Did That Happen?)

I apologize for last week’s absence, but I was on vacation. I decided I was not going to push myself into squeezing an adventure into my R&R time. But as this past week proves, I am more open to serendipitous “adventures” since launching this blog. This fact has to be the single biggest and most unexpected benefit of this endeavour.

One of the motives to start this blog was that it would force me (through self-imposed weekly deadlines) to try new things, to live in the moment and find activities that I am passionate about. On a weekly basis this takes a lot of time, work and planning. And so I decide to take a week off from everything – work, the internet (harder than I thought it would be), and this blog.

The first half of my 10 days away were spent in what I know consider one of the most tranquil, lovely spots I have had the pleasure of visiting: Lake Vermillion.  Located approximately 225 miles north of Minneapolis, it is known as “the lake of the red sunset,” which really is the perfect way to describe the lake which stretches 40 miles across Cook, Minnesota.

A beautiful sunset over Lake Vermillion

Not surprisingly, fishing is a popular activity there, and the gentlemen in our party had gone out early one morning before breakfast and caught dinner while the ladies slept. Very civilized. While gobbling up their catch we discussed fishing again, potentially after dinner. Objectively speaking, if someone asked me to choose between sipping wine on a dock with good friends and watching the sun set, or going out on a boat and maybe – or maybe not – catching some fish, I would guess that I would choose the former. But that night I chose to fish!

Full disclosure: I have fished before, but not seriously, and not for a very long time. I have a vague memory of reeling in a few very tiny fish from a local stream as a child. There was also my one and only outing with the Colby Fly Fishing Club freshman year when I nearly “caught” one of my fishing companions. But for all practical purposes I am not a fisherperson.

Additional disclosure: I had a lot of support on this fishing trip. Our wonderful guide John knew all the best spots on the lake, had high-tech equipment to spot fish under the water and even baited the line for me, so this was more like Fishing for Dummies, than Deadliest Catch…but it was fishing nonetheless.

We set out after dinner, with a rod and roadie in hand, and we waited…and waited…and waited. We did not get as much as a nibble. We did, however, get a front-row seat to an amazing sunset. Undeterred, we agreed to get up at 6:30 the next morning to try again (and by “agreed” I mean we looked at each other, shrugged, and mumbled “why not”).

That next morning it struck me that you have to really like your fishing partners. When you are up way too early, and the coffee (or diet coke in my case) has not kicked in yet, you have to be comfortable with the silence of the lake, and the people around you. Again, we waited…and waited.  We did get some nibbles; the walleye (the indigenous fish) seemed to like the worms and leaches we used.  Suddenly, John yelled that he had something, and too quickly for me to even think about protesting, he urged me to come over and reel in whatever was on the end of his line. As soon as I had his rod in my hand I knew whatever was on the other end of it was big. John had to instruct me on how to reel in a fish this large, and it happened so fast that I don’t quite remember how I did it.  Little by little I pulled the fish closer and closer to us and to the surface of the water. He (or she) appeared as a shadow initially, and then we could see his shape, size and scales, and John caught him in a net.

It was a big Walleye!  John measured and he was more than 26 inches long. John held him with one finger in his gills and invited me to grab him. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to stick a finger inside a fish so I took him from John with both my hands wrapped around his belly. After we took a picture, John took my fish, bent over the side of the boat, held him right under the surface of the water to revive him. Once the walleye was moving John released him and he disappeared into the water.

Me and my Walleye

Before I began this blog, I may very well have sat on that dock, or slept in.  And on another day I may well have decided to go with the fishing alternative. But on these two days, while on vacation, I said yes. That is what I do now, for things in  my life big and small…I say yes. That is what this blog inspires, and pushes me to do every week and now, it seems, every day.

I can’t wait to see what I say yes to next!

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Aww Shucks!

All of the jobs I have ever held, apart from waitressing that one summer, have utilized my brain, not my (metaphoric) brawn. In this blog I have tried physical activities with a low-level of success.  I was a terrible trapeze artist and an even worse pole dancer.  Now, I am not bemoaning that fact; people have different strengths and mine are obviously not of the acrobatic variety. I am perfectly comfortable with that. This past weekend I decided to try something that, while not requiring a great deal of physical strength or flexibility, does require a little umph!

We are all concentrating very hard as we get instructions

I, along with two fabulous friends, headed to The North End Fish Market.  Every Saturday they offer oyster shucking classes from 1:00 to 3:00.  It is free, you only pay for the oysters you shuck and eat. Our instructor Liz said she had been shucking “for a long time” the way old curmudgeons describe their lives, as if they are looking back through a very long looking-glass.  But Liz looked too young to have been doing anything for all that long.

She walked us through the correct way to shuck: dig the tip of the knife into the hinge of the oyster, use your wrist to get some leverage to pop the hinge, run your knife the length of the right side of the oyster’s shell to detach the muscle from the top of the shell, open it up and then flip the meat inside to detach the muscle on the bottom.  Last step: enjoy!

Oysters

We tried it on our own, first with an Indian Neck from Wellfleet, then with the much trickier Conway Royal from PEI. After several warm-up oysters I asked Liz to challenge me, and boy did she deliver. The PEI oyster she handed me did not have the smooth lines of the others, it was bumpier and looked like a fossil from prehistoric times.  Most importantly, it was really hard to get a grip on.  I am not one to run away from a challenge (especially not one I requested), so I grabbed that sucker and got to it, digging my knife into the hinge like my life depending on it, and in some small way it did: I had talked myself up to our teacher and the rest of the class (note to self, anything new will be challenging enough, why up the ante with false bravado).

I had to trade the very challenging PEI in for a slightly easier one, but I did eventually get that darn oyster open and enjoyed every last bit of it.

Battling my oyster

The North End Fish Market is not accepting job applications at the moment so I will have to maintain my new-found skills at home. And I will, not only do I love oysters, this was really fun!  Tricky at first, but with near instant gratification.  What could be better?  While full-time employment there is not in my future, Liz did invite me back for an entire day, so stay tuned for an upcoming post about the joys, and challenges, of handling and cutting raw, dead fish. I can’t wait!

I had a great time at the North End Fish Market, but paid for all the oysters I shucked and was not compensated in any way for this post.