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America the beautiful

July 6, 2016

Independence Day, our great Star Spangled Fourth of July tradition, is a fine time to take special notice of our blessings. Here in the Upper Delaware River Valley the beauty around us abounds throughout the year. The sights, scents and music of nature are our gifts—all we have to do is tune in and be aware.

Yet it is so easy to lose contact with nature due to overriding everyday stress and distractions. For example, how much time do we spend watching or using some form of electronic gadgetry? As a nation, I fear we have become addicted to this “instant electronic alter-world.” Two of the foremost casualties of this addiction are “conversation” (especially family interaction) and “being at one with nature.” We have all seen or experienced it at the family dinner table—Mom and Dad with one eye on the latest breaking news and Junior and Sis texting at lightning speed, lest they miss for a nanosecond the latest electronic tidbit. Meanwhile, outside the house, the relief of a passing thunderstorm with a lightning show all its own and the deep vibrating rumble of thunder up the valley go without notice.

The blessings of our great land did not go unnoticed by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) when she wrote “America the Beautiful.” Bates had just ascended Pike’s Peak (14,000 feet) and was astounded by the view: “All the wonder of America seemed displayed there….” Same in our own back yards. Read her verses once again, or better yet, sing them. Yes, we are blessed, and yet I know another way to appreciate nature and avoid our smart-phone hypnosis—go fishing!

We fish because it is a fascinating way to immerse ourselves in nature and escape everyday stress and the humdrum. John D. Voelker (1903-1991), writing under the pen name of Robert Traver, expressed it another way: We fish because “I suspect that [we] are going along this way for the last time, and I don’t want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones [cellphones] on trout waters.” So we may want to think about modifying our lives to live smarter and more stress-free. We can also consider how we, as a people, can do our best to keep America beautiful. It may be alarmingly past time to think about this, not only as anglers, but as a society.

Native Americans approached life decisions with a mind that considered how descendants seven generations into the future will be affected. This was known to the Iroquois as the Great Law of Peace.