My FishermenAs Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I find myself in thoughtful contemplation about what tops my gratitude list.  There are the obvious choices, such as my health, my amazing friends, my family, my brave clients following their dream, my business that’s been supporting me and giving me the opportunity to support entrepreneurs for 12 years, my most wonderful dog, Zorro, and cats, Claire and Trouble Cat, playing in art and my home that brings me great joy and comfort.  But as I reflect on what brings me the greatest joy and comfort and peace that fills my soul, it’s my community.

Part of my community consists of my extraordinary friends.  We have relationships that have lasted over the miles and decades.  They support me and love me regardless of the circumstances.  They love me through my messiness, my successes and my failures.  They lift me up and remind me who I am.  They stand beside me through thick and thin.   I carry them with me in my heart every day in each moment.  I have a love for them that will last a lifetime and I will treasure each moment.

The other part of my community is my physical neighborhood, especially my fisherman.  Yes, you read that correctly – my fisherman.  Every day, twice a day, Zorro and I walk to the Napa River where we are greeted by our fisherman.  This cadre of men have lived in Napa longer than I’ve been alive and are a staple at the river with their fishing poles and stories.

The impetus to our introduction was a meaningful moment for me. I had not yet personally introduced myself to the fishermen when a friend of mine was walking Zorro for me.  As he and Zorro approached the men, they asked my friend if he had a new dog, to which he replied, no, he was walking Zorro to help me out.  The men nodded with approval.  “Good,” they informed him, “because that dog belongs to another woman.”  I had not yet officially met them, but they were already looking out for me.  I was touched.

I made a point to introduce myself on the next walk. Now, these men are my family.  They have generously shared their lives with me.

I know about fighting wars and returning home to unwelcoming mobs.

I can tell you about mudsuckers and other forms of bait that these men first catch before going after the big fish and how to hook a fish on the line.

I can tell you about line etiquette and the riffs that can develop if an outsider disturbs the flow.

I can tell you stories of pet pelicans that befriended these men and birds they have rescued from ill-cast lines.

They’ve pulled out photos and shared the evolution of the river bank from before flood control days.

I know about long marriages, kids at a much too early age and illnesses.  I’ve listened to stories about a young daughter’s battle with cancer, with daily trips to San Francisco to the hospital and beauty pageants designed to lift the spirits of sick children. I watch gruff men sneak away a silent tear as the happy ending is revealed of the daughter’s full cancer recovery and her annual volunteer efforts returning to the hospital to participant in the pageant.  This daughter now has daughters.

I know about the treasured pets from Chihuahuas to wolf dogs to bull dogs.

I bring them tortillas from my favorite South Phoenix taqueria and I’ve made them banana bread and brownies.

They ask me how my book is coming along and keep me on task.

They love Zorro as if he was their dog and marvel at his spunkiness for his age.  They notoriously feed him snacks that Zorro inhales with gratitude.  After Zorro was viciously attacked by another dog, my first walk with Zorro after he was off the serious pain meds was to visit the fisherman so he could be surrounded by their love and affection. Their love was all the healing force Zorro needed. They checked in on him until well after he was fully recovered.

They know my schedule and question me if I’m a little late one day.

They stop on the road to say “Hi!” if they are driving by during my walk.

They ask my advice and give me little trinkets to say thanks. They share herbs from their garden and gourmet food cooked by their kids.

We watch sunrises and sunsets; ducks swimming and otters playing; sea lions catching salmon and thrashing it about to the delight of the sea gulls.

The best part of my day is sharing the moments with these men.  They let me into their world and I cherish the community.  I adore them and they embrace me. I know they have my back and I have theirs.

On this Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for my fisherman and the wonder they have brought to my life.

My wish for you is that you can find your community of fisherman.  Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!