The Dog Days of Summer

Here near the end of July, summer projects paused, a sunset hanging from clouds, and standing boot-top deep in the surf, a fish slipped from my fingers and back into the sea.

It’s said that the best time to fish for perch is late spring-early summer; during spawning season when the tide is rising and the fish are feeding. Neither the right season nor time of day, the scaley suit of a red-tipped perch – silver bodied, browned striped, and sunlit –  flashed bright and reflective in my hands.

Expecting only the sunset, the red-finned fish was a bonus. I’m what some would call, “not much of a fisherman,” but I do like the water-borne gifts that fishing offers; the excitement of feeling the movement of a lure as it explores the currents beneath the surface of a river, the intimacy of gliding in a kayak across the skin of a motionless lake; the rhythms of the ocean as it encircles and recedes from your feet and your legs.

As I removed the barbless hook and released the fish back into the water, a couple walking on the beach behind me called to their dog.

As I washed them in a wave’s retreat, Bronson, a large Retriever,  leaped curious and wet through the surf and towards my fish-scented hands before turning from the distraction of my activity and heading off in the direction of a ball that his owners had tossed further down the shore.

The fish, with its sore lip and new story to share, now gone,  the light fading, and the sea having breached my boots – both my jeans and my socks were steeping in saltwater – I headed back across the sand towards drier clothes and dinner. Near the stairway that ascended the four stories to the road above and in the dimming shelter at the base of the embankment, a campfire glowed, its smokey haze salted with the fragrances of driftwood, seaweed, and blackened marshmallows.

I slept well last night, or at least as well as my lower back and right shoulder have agreed to let me of late. Near morning I dreamt about a dog running down a beach with a calendar in its mouth.