Casting for Memories

Fly Fishing Fly Fishing1I was listening to my favorite radio show this morning, Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd, and he mentioned that he had gone fishing in Wyoming over the weekend.  For the rest of the ride home, I thought about my favorite fishing memory and how much it meant to me, still means to me.  I grew up spending my summers on the water with my grandfather.  I have many fond memories of jumping off the dock with my cousins, crabbing with Granddad (the subject of my first book), and going fishing.  Often, my father would join us if it wasn’t a weekday or if he and mom had taken off from work and were down at Grandma’s with us for a few days.  Fishing was a past time that we all enjoyed, and I still enjoy it today.

I don’t recall a whole lot about fishing with my grandfather.  We mostly crabbed, and those memories flood my mind whenever I think about my time with him.  However, I do remember how much fun we had with our rods and reels and that showing off our catch was always a big photo op!  We would lay out the fish side by side in the back yard and proudly stand next to our bounty and pose for the camera.  My mother’s photo albums contain many pictures of my dad and me posing with our row of shimmering, silver fish glistening in the sunlight.

Several years ago, my parents went out west with us to the home in Colorado that Ken and I share with several friends and family members.  Though my father wasn’t overly fond of the serpentine climbs that took us up into the Rockies, he thought that the area was one of the most beautiful places he had ever been to.  And who could argue with that?  I’ve been all around the world and have seldom seen anything more beautiful than the Alpine Loop above Lake City and Silverton, Colorado.

This particular trip took place over Father’s Day weekend, and I had planned a present for my dad that I hoped he would not only enjoy but cherish for many years to come.  Taking the whole family into Crested Butte, I announced that Ken, Mom, and the girls would spend the afternoon browsing in the shops while Dad and I took private fly fishing lessons.  Dad was so surprised!  He and I went into the guide’s shop and fitted ourselves with all of the proper gear for fly fishing and marveled at all of the flashy colors on the whimsical lures.  Never before had we fished with anything quite like those fancy flyers that were before our eyes.  We spent the next few hours with our guide learning all of the proper techniques for casting and hooking the fish that we were sure would make a hearty feast at least one night of our vacation.

Every morning and every evening for the next week, Dad and I trekked down to the Lake Fork River and stood in silence casting our lines.  What a peaceful and beautiful experience it was.  Every now and then one of us spoke, but for the most part, we enjoyed the tranquility as we cast our lines and hoped for a bite.  Alas, we never did have the trout dinner of which we all dreamed.  I don’t know if it was our technique, our timing, or our choice of location, but we were never able to hook up with a fish, excuse the pun.  We did, however, witness a stunning bobcat as it came out of the woods and slinked down to the river for a cool drink.  After a few minutes, she looked up at us with her lazy gaze and then bent back down for another sip before padding back into the trees.  Dad and I looked at each other and smiled.  No, there were no fish, but there was a story, and week of memories that neither of us will ever forget.

Never again have I passed by the Lake Fork on our way to our cabin that I haven’t smiled at the fly fishers as they cast their long lines into the rushing water.  I can still close my eyes and see the sun glinting off of the wet rocks as it filtered through the pines and aspens, the sparkling, gem-like light reflecting off of the stream, and the smile on my dad’s face as his line swished back and forth in search of a fish.  There are few times in life when we have the opportunity to just be with someone we love, not talking or watching a movie or being part of the crowd, but just being together enjoying the shared moment and each other’s company.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had any other similar experience with anyone, and I think it’s the closest thing to Heaven that I have ever felt.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

IMG_1878-1What a great night we had last night!  Yesterday evening, the Carpenter Street Saloon in St, Michaels, Maryland held a book launch party for my latest mystery, Picture Me.  What a success it was!  We had non-stop action for the entire two hours, and I sold an entire case of my new book plus several copies of my previously published works.  How blessed I am to live in such a great community!  And that has me thinking about how wonderful it is here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Remember the old Cheers theme song?

Sometimes you want to go

 Where everybody knows your name,

And they’re always glad you came;

You want to be where you can see,

Our troubles are all the same;

You want to be where everybody knows your name.

That’s what it’s like living here on the Shore, and while there are times when everyone knows everybody else’s business, I’ve decided that can be a good thing.  When somebody has something to celebrate, their neighbors are there with bells on.  When the community is stricken with grief, somebody always shows up with a pie, or a cake, or a casserole… whatever is needed to help with the situation.  The point is, we always have somebody to lean on, somebody to care for us, and somebody to help out when needed.

Having never lived in the city, I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a very strong feeling that things are just different when people are living high in their glass towers without the time or the desire to look out the window and see what’s going on in the world around them.  Whenever I’m in DC or NYC, I can’t help but notice that everyone is always looking down – at their phone or their newspaper or just their shoes.  There aren’t friendly smiles and waves to those they pass (my hand gets tired just driving down my street from all of the waves back and forth between myself and other drivers – even if we don’t know each other).  There just seems to be a disconnect between everyone in the city that you don’t find in small towns.

So those in the big cities can keep their flats and ritzy restaurants and high class stores.  I’ll take my favorite little shop, the Preppy Redneck, and the Carpenter Street Saloon any day.  And the next time I’m walking down the street, I’ll smile and wave and say hello to everyone.  That’s what we do here where everybody knows your name.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Laughing Through Life

DSC06314So many families go out to dinner together and enjoy a nice, quiet evening.  The children are seen and not heard as the adults converse over neat and tidy cocktails.  They enjoy their meal with impeccable manners, and come and go quietly and politely.  Let’s just get something straight – that is not my family.  It isn’t that my family doesn’t have manners or that they don’t know how to act.  In fact, when necessary (for example, in Church), they behave just fine.  But the truth is that we like being together, we enjoy those times that we can share a special evening together, and we definitely let loose and have a good time.

On more than one occasion, we have endured stares and dirty looks from other restaurant patrons when our laughing has been, shall we say, a tad bit too loud.  Okay, several decibels too loud.  But those nights are, without a doubt, among our favorite memories.  A few months ago, a friend invited us to a restaurant where he was playing guitar as mood music.  Afterward, he asked us not to come back next time.  All right, he was kidding, but he did have a very hard time keeping a straight face and playing his classical guitar while we were cracking up in the corner.  To be fair, the restaurant was terrible.  The service was the worst ever, and our meal was served almost three hours after we arrived, so who could blame us for getting a little punchy?

This summer, our family took a vacation to Canada.  The girls had never been, and Ken has wanted to do this drive for many years.  It was a crazy route that took us from Maryland to Albany to Greenwood, Vermont, then to Stoddard, New Hampshire as well as Freeport, Augusta, and Bar Harbor Maine.  And that was just the first weekend (thank Heaven for campers).  We then scooted up the coast through St. John’s in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Percè, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and finally back into the States with a stop in Buffalo to visit my Godparents.  More than once, we entertained waiters and waitresses as much as ourselves with our raucous behavior.

In Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, our waiter, James, at the Old Fish Factory joined in on the fun and earned himself and his restaurant a five-star rating on TripAdvisor (okay, the food was truly spectacular as well).  In Quebec City, our young, Egyptian waiter was more than amused and began spending extra time at our table laughing and joking around with us.  However, we hit our peak on the evening drive between Ottawa and Toronto.  Trying to make it to our campground before it got too late, we opted to head out of Ottawa before dinner and stop to eat when we couldn’t take the wait any longer.  Along Highway 416, we spotted a sign for Brigadoon Restaurant and decided to take a chance.  Oh my gosh!  What a treat!  The restaurant was charming, the food was delicious (I highly recommend the rack of lamb), and the wait staff was wonderful.  Unfortunately for the rest of the clientele, we were tired from a long day in museums and walking around the city, and we were pretty hungry.  Those are not good combinations for us.  Where most families might encounter meltdowns and whiny children, that combo only ups our ante of jokes, making fun of each other, and just having a good time.  The staff was great and didn’t seem to mind our good humor, which we find to be the case more often than not.

There may be some who look down on us when we’re enjoying one of those nights, but it’s all in good fun.  And as the waitress said at Brigadoon, “We’d much rather see sisters who make each other laugh than ones who fight all the time.”  Of course, that sent all of us into a fit of laughter knowing that she hadn’t been in the camper with us earlier in the day. The bottom line is that given the choice between children who sit quietly and and chew properly but don’t experience the true joy of being a family or children who stick out their tongue to show their food and laugh so hard they can’t take a sip of water, I’ll go for the latter any day.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

A Whale of a Tale

DSC06345If I were to ask you, or most people, what your favorite animal is, I’m sure you, or most, would answer “cat,” dog,” or other similar such creature.  My children have always thought me a bit strange because I have a great love for (they would call it an obsession with) elephants, sharks, and whales.  Since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated by these three majestic creatures.  When I was very little, I had a small collection of whales – glass figurines, stuffed animals, and such.  As a teenager and young adult, I had quite an extensive collection of elephants – everything from clothes to glass and wooden figures to unique collectibles from around the world (gifts from friends and family).  For Christmas a few years ago, my husband gave me a shark dive in Australia.  It was the most amazing experience ever!

Recently, our family traveled up north and enjoyed a ferry ride to Nova Scotia.  I was excited to discover that we would have the opportunity to see dolphins, porpoises, sharks and whales as we crossed the Bay of Fundy.  The morning began enshrouded with a thick, white fog that wasn’t unlike the New England Clam Chowder the girls had enthusiastically eaten with dinner the previous evening.  Aboard the ferry, we sat in the lounge, huddled in our sweatshirts and clinging to our warm tea and coffee.  Hoping that the fog would lift, we waited for the announcement that it was the right time to observe the sea life.

When we were about an hour outside of Digby, we made our way outside onto the deck with cameras and binoculars.  The wind was blowing so hard that it was almost impossible to even open the door.  We stood on the deck, lined up along the railing, eager to greet whatever beautiful creature arose to bid us a good morning.  The fog had lifted, but there was still a cold, misty chill in the air in spite of being mid-summer.  The shores of Digby were ahead of us, barely visible on the hazy horizon.  The Bay was calm as the sea birds dove below the water and then shot up into the air with their catch in their beaks.

After a while, the girls were cold and bored, and they decided to retreat back into the lounge and test the wifi (they are teenagers, after all).  Ken and I stood on the deck in silence and kept watch on the horizon.  As we neared the landing, we knew that our chances were growing slim to see any marine life.  A ripple of excitement went through me as I sighted movement off to the left.  Peering across the sea, I watched as a school of porpoises gently glided through the waves, their fins in perfect harmony with each other.  Too fast in and out of the waves to stop for a picture, the porpoises swam on out of sight.

As we stood against the backdrop of the open sea while it rolled onto the approaching shore, I knew that we would see no whales today.  The closer we drew to land, the thicker the fog became.  What had cleared while out at sea was now drifting back toward us, covering the ferry with its mantle of white.  At the very last minute before the call to return to our vehicles, I felt, more than saw, a stir out at sea, and I turned just in time to see a monstrous and majestic creature arise from the water.  I suddenly knew how Ahab felt when he first laid eyes on the Great White Whale.  My heart beat faster as I watched the beautiful animal clear her lungs with a mighty geyser that sprayed salty tasting droplets on the fascinated onlookers.  As she began her descent back into the sea, her eyes locked with mine.  Unlike the cold, dead eyes of a shark, hers were bright and full of life.  An understanding passed between us, and I held my breath as I watched her sink into the water, the turquoise pool sliding over her shiny black body and hiding all traces of the magnificent creature.

I breathed for the first time in what felt like several minutes.  I could scarcely believe what I had just witnessed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls what they had missed.  I’m sure you will agree that it was a moment to remember forever.  Or perhaps you will realize that Melville and I have more in common than a love for whales.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com