It was a Thursday morning in August and Will Wallace and I were sitting on a little lake in the metropolitan Twin Cities. The lake is 10 miles from the capitol in St. Paul but it’s tucked away: clear water, spring fed, no jet skis or bass boats.
Will and I are unlikely fishing partners. He’s 49, I’m 81. He’s a former Gangster Disciple who turned his life around. I’m a former reporter and editor who’s heading down the home stretch. I’m retired. Will’s working some six days a week trying to get young brothers off the streets, out of gangs, into school and onto jobs.
We’ve been fishing together on this lake for 25 years, probably catching several hundred bass, crappies, bluegills and a few northern. The fish catching is fun and we hoot and holler. But it’s the peace and perspective that we really seek.
“You know Pops(Will calls me Pops),” he said, “I wish all my guys could feel what we feel today. We are connected to somethin’;good, and nobody is rearranging it every year.” I know what he means feeling connected to nature. The loons are back. The osprey is flying overhead. Even thought the lake is down a foot from the summer drought, I still see green shoots sticking out in front of the beaver house on the bank.
Even as Will and I were talking, a tribal group in northern Minnesota had filed a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources, claiming a pipeline being built threatens to diminish wild rice beds in lakes on the reservation. According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune news story, wild rice was in effect the plaintiff in the case that “advances a paradigm-shifting legal theory that nature itself has rights to exist and flourish and is not simply human property.”
I told Will I had to cut our fishing trip short so I could join an afternoon ZOOM session with a group in Oregon, Washington and Idaho seeking the removal of four damns on the lower Snake River that threaten the future of wild Chinook salmon on the West Coast. Will’s never caught a salmon or seen the famed rivers of the west, but he was interested in the work DamTruth; he’s a black man who’s spent a lifetime bucking the odds.
So why are they making such an effort? Will asked. Well, they want to restore the river’s natural flow and renew the fishery for those who wield a flyrod, or paddle a canoe, or steer a raft down a wild river.
Will paused a moment, put his rod down and looked me in the eye. “What about just restoring our soul,” he said. “That seems about enough reason for me to take things back to the way they used to be. “ Sometimes, I pick up real wisdom sitting in the back of a 14-foot AlumaCraft with my eyes open and mouth shut.