Aug 2, 2011


My son and I went dipnetting this weekend. It was a first for both of us and a hellacious/satisfying experience. Kind of like writing.

The photo above illustrates how dipnetting works. It was taken by my friend Stephen, who also took us to Fish Creek and showed us the ropes. Basically we stand in the water with a gigantic, five-foot net and wait for fish to swim in. This year we’ve had a record red salmon return . (Some say that’s due to the fact the Japanese fishing fleet was wiped out from the last tsunami. I felt so awful for that nation but there is a silver cloud to every lining…especially for those of us who love salmon. More survived this year and now we’re reaping the benefit.)

But I digress. The photo above is taken in Kenai, where dipnetting is akin to a Hawaiian vacation. Here is a link to a slideshow of where I went this weekend:
One word: mud. To my waist. Not just any mud – the kind that traps you and slowly kills you as the tide comes in. And when the creek’s tide came in all the way to the tree line (photos in link are of the creek at low tide) I had visions of drowning via glacial mud stuckage. Or I’d lose my waders, my pants and undies and have to swim for my life, arriving on shore nekkid to explain to a trooper why he shouldn’t cite me for indecent exposure.

To avoid this fate, I left my son to carry the net and our 30 lbs of fish (he wore overall waders and is much taller than I am) and wrestled my way through the woods back to the car. No trail. Lots of devil’s club. Despite our fishing success, I wondered WTH I was doing. Was the experience really worth all this trauma?

The day was hard, embarrassing, filthy and also rewarding, exhilarating and a privilege. Only Alaska residents get to do this. We caught four salmon – not many, comparatively, but we’re the only two who eat fish in my family – and my son and I had periodic fits of laughter at our own incredible filthiness/fish blood coverage. He had a blast. I know it’ll be one of his favorite summer memories. And I’m in it!

And yes, my writing life right now is just like dipnetting. I’m wondering WTH I’m doing. It’s hard, it’s periodically embarrassing in a kind of nekkid-in-a-crowd-of-fishermen way. People around me are catching fish and I’m not yet even ready to put my net in the water. I worry my timing is off, that I’m not strong enough to haul in that huge net when I do hook an agent.

But writing, like dipnetting, is addictive. I’m going for it. The rewards are worth the risk of getting in over my head.


Tracey Wood said...

Melodie, I think I'm flailing around in the same everything-I-write-is-really-pretty-crappy sea as you. Do you spot me waving? Love this post! -Following you enthusiastically.

julie fedderson said...

I had never heard of such a thing, but this is awesome. Like noodling for catfish, only without the fear of losing an arm to a snapping turtle. Funny how you can compare writerly process to surviving in the wild, but it certainly is fitting.