Possibility: Part 2

It just occurred to me today that my father was a man who knew about possibility, and that the story I chose to tell at his funeral 17 months ago, from the hundreds I could have chosen, was a story about possibility.

It concerned an incident from when I was a little girl, and my father, still a young man. The story I want to tell today comes from when my father was turning 87, a few months before he died.


My father was a fisherman for more than 80 years. He fished for pleasure, for food, for spiritual nourishment. As a fisherman he was intimately attuned to the natural world. On any day he knew the state of the moon’s waxing and waning. He watched and listened to the tides and the wind and the pelicans that ride the thermals high above the eucalypts.

About a week or two before his 87th birthday, my father was fishing at his favourite spot when he looked down and saw, as if for the first time, a particular cone-shaped shell common to the tidelines around his home.

He was suddenly struck by the idea of using the creature inside as bait. So he hammered open the shell, put the creature on his hook and cast out. Within a couple of minutes he caught a black bream, and for the next hour he just pulled in fish wherever he cast. For three days he repeated the experiment and every single time he cast out, he caught a fish.

On day four I spoke to him by phone and his excitement was palpable. This was one of the greatest discoveries of his life. He had won the only lottery he ever cared to enter. He also felt he’d been given another 20 years of life.

As we chatted, we laughed and marvelled how it was that after more than 80 years of close observation of the natural world, as well as constant experimentation with bait type, bait recipes and locations, he could discover something completely new right under his nose.


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