– David Reiersgord
When I think about waste, I am reminded of my childhood. I am reminded of lazy summer afternoons somewhere in central Minnesota where I spent much of my adolescence fishing. Once upon a time, there were fish in the lake – small fish and big fish. Many of my first memories are of my grandfather taking my cousins and I out in the boat. It instilled in me a bond with nature, with the outdoors, and most importantly fish. I grew to understand how the lake worked; I grew to learn how the patterns of waves affected where fish would be; I grew to learn what the sky looked like – and how the air began to smell differently – before it was going to rain; I grew to learn how water depth influenced the type of fish in an area. We used to catch many fish on this lake. But as I got older, I began to notice a change. It was as if the lake was empty, save for the water and one bastard of a fish.
I am reminded of a particular song lyric when I think about this lake: “Now progress takes away what forever took to find”. It used to be boats and canoes on the lake. Then it was boats, canoes, jet skis, jet boats, water tubing. I tell my grandfather – whenever I happen to find myself ‘up north’ – that there are not any fish in the lake anymore. I know it kills him to hear this; but he defiantly tells me otherwise even though he and I both know he is wrong. I am sure he blames it on Obama, but we both know it is the abundance of gasoline excreted by the boats; moreover, it is perhaps, more importantly, the ecology of the lake that has changed. There is a particular species called the Muskellunge, which is one impressive fish designed specifically to hunt, kill and eat other fish, birds, whatever it can find. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources decided to transport many of the ‘muskies’ to the lake. Over the course of several years, the wise guys at the DNR transformed the lake into a dying bowl of water. Now, the boats that come to fish are in search of the ‘muskies’ and the populations of other fish have been all but decimated. Muskies used to be considered waste because there are difficult to catch, do not taste particularly good (too bony) and are nuisance for the ecology of lakes.
I do not fish on this lake anymore because it is a waste of time. Instead, I sit on the stoep looking out at the lake trying to imagine what it was like before the muskies came, before we came. I wonder how quiet it was. How big were the fish?