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One With Nature

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Most of us Rock Islanders go about our business efficiently. We dress, drink our coffee, put in our eight hours, eat, and turn on the television.

Every so often, however, the corner of an eye catches the Mississippi River flowing past Rock Island, and a small hidden part of us stirs, reminded that we are part of some larger plan.

Most Americans share that same longing to be one with nature, as we say. That itch sends us for walks in the woods; it makes burnt campfire food taste good.

But it's not that simple. Here's a dilemma a young friend of mine posed to me recently. He and his father had gone fishing at daybreak one morning to an Iowa trout stream north of Rock Island. He described how peaceful the scene was, sitting with his father on the bank, getting their fishing gear ready, watching the mist sifting through the branches of trees overhanging the water. In the quiet, he could hear the birds in the woods on the opposite shore and the gurgle of the water as it ran over the rocks. Civilization melted away, he said, and he communed with nature.

Then, suddenly, the line pulled; he set the hook and stood at attention. The thin rod bent, no time for either man or fish at each end of the line to think of birds in the woods or mist above the water. Hunter and hunted in an immemorial struggle. My friend played the fish on the line. Too loose and he would lose the fish; too tight and the line would break. It was all business. Fish and man watching each other for the slightest mistake.

Then it was over. The fish lay in the net, and my friend relaxed. Again, he was aware of the birds and the fog, of his father, and the woods.

My young friend posed this question: when was I most at one with nature, he asked. At the moment of battle, at full attention, unaware of anything except the line and the fish, or at those moments of repose, father and son framed by a sense of wellbeing.

What would you say?

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.