GAFF: And The Ocean of Plenty
Thoughts of an Old Fisherman
by Lorena R. Peter, Ph.D.*
[as it appeared in the March 2012 Newsletter]
Priscilla and Bobby remained with Gaff even as the rest of the crowd drifted away down the beach to whatever they were doing before Bobby hooked THE BIG ONE. They were watching the spectacle of life in the ocean before them. Appreciating the nuances and the synergy. Listening to the crashing waves and the calling birds. Smelling the salt in the damp air brushing against their skin. Feeling the prickles of the sand carried by the wind against their legs.
Suddenly, Priscilla turned to Gaff. “I’ve been wondering what you do with all the fish you catch, Gaff. You’re out here on the beach so much you must have tons of fish stored at home by now.”
Bobby laughed. “She’s got a good question there, you know. Been wondering that myself. Either your freezer is the size of Iowa or your family have all grown scales and fins by now!”
Gaff laughed with a genuine twinkle in his eyes. “Good question. Especially after all my talk about being a steward of the planet.”
Bobby laughed. “That’s right.”
Gaff got more serious. “You know that fish fry the Reverend Wally’s church had last week? The money was for their scholarship fund to help some of the local children get an education.”
Bobby turned to him, grinning now. “Your fish?”
Gaff smiled toward Mother Water. “Our fish. Mother Water provided those fish and a bunch of us along the beach donated them to the cause. We do that from time to time.”
Priscilla screwed her face into a frown. “Wasn’t that the first fish fry Wally had?”
Gaff nodded, “The Methodists have an outreach to help families in need. A lot of groups do. There’s more need now, what with the economy so bad and jobs going overseas.”
Bobby kicked the sand. “I guess you either buy American stuff or you pay to support the people put out of work.”
The silence that followed was filled with thinking, serenaded by sounds of the waves and calling of the gulls.
Priscilla’s voice was small. “Bobby, would it be all right to give Harold some of the fish in our freezer? I know he hasn’t been on the beach this winter because of his arthritis. And we’ll never eat all we have. He’s always so friendly when I walk past his house. Waves—offers me tea and cookies. Probably lonely since his wife died.”
Gaff went to tend his fishing gear and they followed him. “Be nice to visit him, but I don’t think Harold needs any fish just now.”
Priscilla nodded with understanding. “Oh.”
“You might offer some to Ivy for her family, though.”
Priscilla frowned again. “What? That horrible woman who can’t talk below a roar? Why would I give her anything but a cold shoulder?”
Bobby grinned. “You could offer her a visit to a counselor. Or a gaff on her noggin to knock some sense into her.”
Gaff baited his hook and then turned to look at Priscilla. “Remember that you are the one interpreting her behavior… and you really don’t KNOW what it means. You also told me that you often don’t know what is in your own best interests.”
Bobby poked a finger into her ribs, “Ya hungry? I think you’re gonna eat your words here.”
Priscilla put hands on hips and watched Gaff with interest. “OK?”
Gaff cast his hook into the channel in front of the sandbar. “ Don’t I remember your saying that one of the lessons is that you don’t know what anything is for?”
She repeated, “OK?”
He continued, “That can apply to Ivy’s yelling. You don’t know why she is that way. You also don’t know how you might change the situation by just being nice to her.”
Priscilla grinned. “Oh, ho ho. I’d be the only one on the beach.” She hesitated a beat. “Except maybe for you. You’re nice to everyone.”
Gaff set the reel and placed the second rod into its holder. Bobby was finished tending his gear, too, and the three friends made their way back to their seats. Plop, plop, plop into the chairs.
Gaff continued as if there had been no gap in the conversation. “Maybe she needs a gal friend who is studying The Course?”
Priscilla responded slow and low. “May…be?”
Gaff laughed. “Didn’t you tell me that my attack thoughts were what attacked my own invulnerability? And that ‘Above all else, I want to see things differently’? Well this your chance to act on those words.”
Bobby chuckled. “Bet you’re not hungry now—those words tasty?”
Priscilla’s frown returned. “What you’re saying is that I have no idea what’s going on in her life to cause her obnoxious behavior and that I should assume that there is some good in her. Maybe if I make some friendly gestures toward her…”
Bobby interrupted, “You can add some sunshine to her life… the same as you add that sunshine to mine.” He was still smiling, but this smile radiated love for Priscilla.
Gaff patted her on the back. “This will give you a chance to practice turning the other cheek and being a model of performing random acts of loving kindness.”
Bobby pulled his bait knife out of his cooler and a sharpening stone out of his sack. “Just remembered to do this little task. Just to cut my bait. Not to use on Ivy.” All three laughed.
Gaff laughed the loudest. “Glad to hear it.”
Three sets of eyes took in the swells out in the distance and the clouds rolling in from the southwest. Gaff was hoping that Priscilla could make inroads where he had not. He was wondering how he could help her reach Ivy.
Bobby ran the blade along the stone, first one way and then the other. Slow, purposeful, the scraping sound a regular rhythm. Finally, he voiced his thoughts. “And what is Priscilla to do if Ivy starts yelling at her?”
Gaff shook his head, a line etched between his eyes. “You’re not being asked to sacrifice yourself, but only to offer a blessing. She may or may not accept it. We can only hope. You’re choosing differently and at the same time you’ll offer her a chance to choose differently. Remember what the Course tells you about being invulnerable. You’re invulnerable because you have the best backup. What I do in times of doubt is to open myself to guidance from the Holy Spirit through Mother Water. She really pulls through when I need her. I have only to ask… and then to listen.”
Priscilla said slowly, “So I go over to visit Ivy with a bunch of fish from our freezer.”
Bobby interrupted, grinning. “And you could take some of those great cookies you bake.”
“OK, cookies and fish. Then I see what happens… and it would be good to expect a miracle while I’m at it.”
Gaff smiled. “Might help to ask for divine assistance before you knock on her door. Then if things don’t go well, you walk away. If they do, you stay and make a new friend.”
Priscilla smiled. “Can’t have too many friends.”
Gaff continued, “Whatever happens, it is divine order. It isn’t your responsibility to change another person. You are there to act differently yourself, to put into action the words you’ve been reading. Sometimes by seeing things differently and by acting from that new understanding, the whole situation changes.”
Bobby smiled a sly one. “Might ask for protection before you knock.”
Priscilla was quiet for a spell and then her face suddenly brightened. She straightened her back and looked full of energy and determination. “I’ll do it. She’s about due for another stay. Spring break’s this week and they always come for spring break.” She hopped out of her chair and called over her shoulder on her way toward the boardwalk. “Think I’ll go bake some cookies… just in case.”
Bobby laughed. “It worked. She bakes so many of those cookies that I’ll get some, too!” He cut his eyes toward Gaff and added, “I can bring some to the beach, too.”
Gaff patted his stomach. “What were we saying about not consuming more than we need?”
Bobby laughed, “I’ll only bring you two then.”
The tip of Gaff’s rod was wiggling to beat the band: a fish on his hook. He pushed himself out of his chair to tend to the new gift from Mother Water. As he moved, he answered, “Take more than two!”
Bobby stroked his knife back and forth across the stone. “And now we fish to help others! You are full of wisdom, Gaff. You always help me see things differently.”
“Mother Water helps us by giving us fish and we pay it forward by helping people not yet ready to fish for themselves.”
Bobby’s hand stopped mid-stroke. “Do they ever learn to fish for themselves?”
Gaff stood with rod in hand and looked first at Mother Water. Then he turned toward Bobby. “Most times they do, but not everyone becomes a prize-winning fisherman who hooks the BIG ONE! We just need to have faith in them. They are where they are meant to be and they’re doing their best.” He turned back to tend his gear, all the while thanking Mother Water for her help and sending healing energy to her.
Bobby dragged the knife against the stone. In low tones he said, “Faith… and patience… takes a bunch of patience.”
*Lorena Peter, Ph.D., writes entertaining mysteries, romances and wisdom books.
All have strong spiritual underpinnings and paranormal elements. She blends a medical intuition and healing practice (and travel) with her writing. You may contact her on Facebook. For her understanding of the Course, she thanks Carmen Cameron and the class in Louisville, KY.