So an old friend shot me an email today asking for a zen take on ice-fishing to use as grist for his (mostly) weekly word-mill.  Y'all do follow the Motley Cow, si?  Anymoo, here's an abridgment snip-fest from my reply.  One more thing: I really don't need to explain--nor was I actually explaining--zen to him.  This is totally rhetorical...

Right, Mark? ;)

And bonus points to anyone who I.D.'s the photo...

Letting down the line ten thousand feet,
A single breaking wave makes ten thousand ripples.
At night in still water, the cold fish won’t bite.
An empty boat filled with moonlight returns.

-Sensu Tokujo (Chinese, Chuanzi Decheng)

Letting down the line ten thousand feet,
A single break in the thick ice makes ten thousand cracks.
At night, under the shanty the cold fish won't bite.
An empty Skidoo filled with moonlight returns.



Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

-Henry David Thoreau


"Zen" is actually more rightly a verb.  Zen is action.  Zen is "to do", not "to be".  Zen is not an extraordinary state of Being.  Zen is being intimately in touch with the state of Being you're in right here, right now.  Zen is both particle and wave.  Zen is both ice and water.  Zen is catching fish with a straight hook. Zen is mind- and ass-numbingly boring.  So you're dead-on with ice-fishing ;)

Although I gotta say after thinking of it, there are major parallels that can be drawn between zen and ice fishing.  Both see the newer practitioner in a cold, tiny space out in the middle of nowhere sitting still and mildly uncomfortable for hours on end with the mistaken impression that at some point, something should "happen" and that you should return to shore with some "thing" to show for it.  Long-time practitioners know better, yet do it anyway ;)  Yes, this is both a joke and the truth.

Last bit.  Here's a quick story I just wrote borrowing more Thoreau, who was a zen muthafoker if ever there was one:

Deep in the middle of a hard Wisconsin winter, two fishing buddies met at a tavern just off of the Milwaukee River. They were talking ice fishing strategy, baits, where they auger their holes, and bragging about their voluminous catch the day before.  One of them caught sight of a grizzled old man sitting in the corner, drinking a cup of tea.  They asked the bartender who the mysterious man was.  "That guy?  That der's Old Man Bodee.  He's the one that's caught the biggest fish ever pulled through the ice here, way back in 1972!  Hasn't caught a fish since, but he's out on the ice every day."  The two men grabbed their beers and walked over to the old tea drinker to introduce themselves.  The old man nodded and invited them to sit down.  He was amiable, but quiet as the two buddies talked fishing.  Soon, a friendly wager was struck: whomever catches the most fish in one day's fishing wins $10.  The next evening, the two buddies found the old man sitting at the same table with a cooler at his feet.  They walked up and sat down, proudly saying that they caught so many fish they couldn't bring them into the tavern without a hand truck.  They waited for the old man to show them his apparently meager catch.  The old man smiled, opened his cooler, and took out a roast beef sandwich.  As he unwrapped the sandwich, he said to the men; "You have much food to show for your efforts, but you have still not caught the fish."  With that, the two men each took out a five dollar bill, laid it on the table, and were enlightened.

A gun gives you the body, not the bird.  ~Henry David Thoreau


Jomon said...

Hey ZenTrixter! I just noticed I was in your blogroll. Thanks! I had trouble in the distant past getting you on mine (something to do with an adult-only rating or something), but now that seems to not be a problem.

It's funny you are posting about ice fishing. This is lovely. I will forward this to my friend who was just visiting. I find so few differences between nature-appreciators like him and Zennies.

And then finally, just for fun, Garrison Keillor's description of ice fishing "colonies" are where guys can scratch themselves, pass gas or even take a whiz out the shanty door without the censure of disapproving females.

Sacred / Profane... meh!

illusory tenant said...

Willem Dafoe and John Lurie in Fishing With John.