Waking naturally before light pierces through bedroom curtains does not happen often. On mornings when a full day of work awaits, the alarm clock has a hard time pulling me from the netherworld. When at last I do recognize the persistent buzzing and chirping, after I distinguish the sound from that which is emanating from some found object in my dream, my first physical reaction is to pull the covers up over my head, and pretend I don't hear it, pretend I am still dreaming. That feeling you get on Sundays, when by mistake you forget and set your alarm the night before, and when you finally do answer the alarm clock's call, you realize it's Sunday, and you can sleep in-- I always hope it's one of those mornings. But more times than not, it isn't. They're are some mornings, though, when I somehow gain consciousness, like I've been given a shot in the arm. On those mornings, I throw back the covers and get to my feet, put on a pot of coffee, and gather my things. It's on these mornings, when the fish are rising in some far off stream or lake, or a trail leading beyond the reach of phone signal beckons to me, that I rise and perform this sacred morning ritual.
That morning, I paddled the cove, searching around fallen timber and boat docks for bass. The first one I hung into pulled my kayak around like a bathtub toy, even though he was no more than two pounds. I took a good look at the fish, then flipped him back into the tangled mass of brush that I'd pulled him out of. When I paddled back out away from the bank, I saw a man in a red kayak, working the shoreline toward me, although his only fishing rod was upright in the rod holder, and his hands were prodding the rocks, as if he was searching for something. I just watched him, wondering what he was looking for, and then when he pulled up a wad of mono with a Carolina rig attached to it, I knew he was a treasure hunter. He looked to be around 70-- slender and tall with a white goatee and ponytail, earrings and tattoos, a stubby pipe puffing smoke as he paddled on around the bend to find another jewel. When he looked up, I threw up my hand. He took the pipe from his teeth and said, &quo