Saturday, 22 September 2012

Learning from the Field

This is a special place.

If any mantra has swayed to and fro within the empty space where my mind should be, it is those words. I keep trying to imagine what it felt like to be the ‘me’ of yesterday; the one who had never experienced today, who had never learned what I learned, or seen what I’ve seen this day. The one who still held today in yesterday’s wonder and worry.

It may be a fruitless struggle to imagine myself then, but it is a vital conflict. If we never reflect or acknowledge how little we knew yesterday, we could never truly appreciate all we’ve learned today.

My wife Kiyomi and her first cod 

(Photo: Ed Millar)

Today, my wife and I joined Ster Welcher and Kayla Hobbs on Ster’s speedboat to go catch cod on the first day of the fall recreational cod fishery which will close on September 30th. Ster used landmarks on the shore to position the boat. Kayla told us that earlier the shoal was where the cod could be found, but later heard that they may have moved to deeper areas. Once we were in position, Ster and Kayla showed us how to cast the hand lines (each with a Norwegian jig) and how far to let the line down before reeling it in a little and jigging the line. If there were no bites within a few minutes, Ster would move to the next mark and cast again. After some unsuccessful casts, the cod started to bite, and within two hours we caught our limit for the day. Back on shore, Kayla showed me how to correctly gut cod and cut the tongue, which I then proceeded to do, while Ster fileted. 

My first cod (Photo: Ed Millar)

Yesterday, while I certainly imagined what it might feel like to go out on a boat to catch cod, I remained oblivious to what it actually came to feel like, not to mention being unaware of the nuances involved. While we had read and learned about the catching process, seeing it in person removed the filters brought on by my unfamiliarity, resulting in a clearer overall picture.  
I am so thankful for having been given this opportunity to go out and meet some truly incredible people, who have taught me so much in these last few weeks.

Phonse Ducey showing me the technique for mending a net
(Photo: Ed Millar)

Every day, I come to realize the basic importance of what it means to be a folklorist: to meet, record, and learn from others. Over time, that realization progresses into the notion that everyone, everything, and everywhere, is special. Regardless of which corner you turn, there will be people worth talking to, things worth doing, and places worth seeing.  

Keels is that special place. 

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