Have you ever watched a fisherman release a fish they have caught back into the water? Many summers ago I used to watch my nephew Shawn do it. He was never rough or careless with his catch. First, he would carefully remove the lure from its mouth. By then, the fish was usually calmer in his hand. He’d hold it very lightly between his palms, and return it into the water. Moving the fish back and forth, he’d allow water to flow through its gills, and then turn it upright into a swimming position and be sure that its fins were moving. Opening his hands and pulling them back, he’d let it go, watching it dart off quickly into the shimmering waters and shadows again.
During the whole process Shawn always was very attentive and gentle. He showed respect for the life of the fish, the struggle it had been to bring it in (especially the big ones) and then finally a wistfulness at letting them go.
I think of that act when I return to the lesson of letting go. For me the hardest letting go is with people. Again and again I am given this opportunity– with friends, parents, lovers, children. As I struggle with it, I wonder what it means to let go, and what it is I let go. It surely isn’t anything outside of me–I don’t and can’t hold or possess another person in the first place. It seems it is some part of myself I let go of, that I release back into those cool waters with tenderness, as I make sure it can return on its own to its deep home.
I also let go the struggle and the catch, the dance I did with the other. I let all that go, while honoring it. Relationships are beings in themselves, and to hang on after one has changed or ended is as dangerous to me as it is for that fish to remain out of the water. So I return that person to the stream of life. I hold loosely, feeling the cool currents, the clean way it gives life, and with that wistful, bittersweet feeling I let what I shared with them return to its source. I let that silvery gift go, as I would a fighting salmon, and watch it slip back into the current of time.
releasing the fish back into cool waters
the hand opens
and movement and life return in a jolt
the fish disappears into the shadows
a flash of diamonds as it goes
like the glint when it first took the hook.