Living off the Calendar: A Fisherman’s Seasonal Dissonance

31 12 2011

Life as a fisherman has skewed my relationship with time. Some folks live off the grid; we live off the calendar. Twenty-four years of following Southeast Alaskan fisheries has resulted in a seasonal dissonance that is never more evident than in December.

My attitude toward Christmas is more Tim Minchin than traditional, and I drift through “The Holidays” feeling vaguely disconnected from my cultural surroundings. In my world, Christmas Eve is June 31, not December 24. Our July 1 king salmon opening delivers all the breathless possibilities – glossy-eyed optimism to devastating disappointment – of other people’s Christmas. The 2:45 alarm will blare all too soon, so Cap’n J and I force ourselves to our bunk early, as the sun still hovers high above the horizon, retiring to visions not of sugar plums but big chinooks dancing in our heads. Did we pick the right tiny spot of a vast coastline? Will we get lucky? After a restless night, we leap out of the bunk, throw the hooks in, and wait, stomachs knotted, to see what we’ll get.

The New Year’s Eve/Day hoopla is even more confusing. My sense of each year’s beginning/ending comes from Up North springs and Down South autumns, a bi-annual migration that provides the punctuation to my life. A random date in the midst of winter – our “off” season – means nothing. I suspect teachers experience something similar, synchronizing their inner timelines with the school year.

One December holiday resonates with this seasonal lifestyle: Solstice. The shortest day of the year presents an opportunity to pause, reflect on the passage of winter, and welcome the returning of the light. Long days are critical to our livelihood: when you only have a few months to make your year’s income, every moment counts. Winter Solstice offers a bookmark-like quality to our off-season, a reminder that we’re now moving towards its summer counterpart and our northbound migration.

Almost 11 p.m. and they're still biting...

As the sun sets on 2011, I want to thank you for being a part of Hooked’s community.  Getting to know you through your comments has been a joy and an inspiration, and I’m eager for what 2012 will bring. However you identify with this time of year, my best wishes of warmth, gratitude, and miscellaneous holiday cheer to you and yours.


%d bloggers like this: