Monday, 16 April 2012

Trout Tickling

Have you ever tickled a trout? I have tried, but I’ve never caught one. Here’s how you do it. Lie on a flat stone in a trout stream and dangle your arms in the water. Try not to wriggle around, even though it’s probably cold, and don’t disturb the bottom if you can help it. At first, the water will be hard to see through. That’s because of all the reflected light on the surface, but after a while your eyes will adjust and you’ll be able to see quite clearly.

          The next part is tricky, because it involves a process of—to steal a phrase from the Buddhists—unlearning. All your life you have been learning to search for things, to maintain your vision in a state of tight focus. To tickle a trout you need to relax your eyes, let the emphasis on focus gently become a process of gazing, as you do when you let your eyes rest on the far distance. At first you won’t see anything much, but then, you’re not peering; you’re trying to see without effort. After a few moments, the landscape at the bottom of the stream will start to appear more clearly. Resist the urge to focus; just relax and wait.

          You will suddenly see a trout. The fish will be quite visible, but before that you will have seen nothing of it. Then others: you will note that dark-topped fish hug the shadows and hover above dark stones; light-hued fish will seek the bright sands. This is their strategy for hunting and for protection, a subtle camouflage that works on prey as well as predators. If you have been still, sooner or later a trout will actually nudge your hand, and if you are quick, you’ll have him. Just like that.

          Is this a metaphor, maybe about science and faith?

          You bet.

1 comment:

  1. If you were telling this story north of the border, you could call it "Guddling God".

    (Kindly ignore the more, er, specialised usage of the word which I have just discovered has spread into English slang. No, really, don't even look.)