Friday, October 21, 2016

Blue Marlin Fishing

El Nino Blue Marlin

From the window of our plane we saw the Baja Peninsula rising

from the sea below us like a a writhing red dragon with the

Pacific on one side and the Sea of Cortez on the other.

Only the hardy survive in the Baja's harsh beauty : sharp

spined cactus, armadillos wearing suits of armor, swift

roadrunners.  Life on this rugged peninsula brings one close

to the struggle for survival: armor, weapons, cunning, speed.

    It is likewise in the seas offshore Baja.  Few people

find it an inviting place except for the hardy fishermen

for the waters offshore Baja teem with sea life of various

kinds.  Donning a mask and flippers, I entered its clear

water and found a small fish resembling a dead leaf, a

skittish school of large fish that streaked away before I

could get a good look, and strange puffer fish covered with

spines like the cactus in the surrounding mountains.

     El nino, a change in ocean currents had brought a surge

of warm water to the Pacific coast of Mexico and to the Sea

of Cortez.  The warm water had turned the fishing upside

down.  El nino means the child and is associated with

Christmas time since it occurs around December and brings

gifts from the sea in the form of tropical species.

    Perhaps the captain of the fishing boat we chartered was

born during an El Nino for like the child, his name was

Jesus.  Jesus Ariza.  Due to El nino, the unexpected was

about to leap up everywhere.

     Away from the shallows where I snorkeled, the water

drops off rapidly in the Sea of Cortez and has a hard black

and white glitter like a chipped obsidian spear point due to

its great depth.

     I sat on the upper deck and chatted with the captain

while gazing at a panoramic view offshore of Beuna Vista. As

the mountainous shore receded I imagined fish below us like

armored, colorful warriors equipped for battle with lances,

spears, sharp fins and teeth--ready for fight or flight.

     In their submarine world, great billed and sharp finned

fish were cruising the dark waters: sailfish, marlin, dorado,

tuna in all their shining splendor.  Trailing from the deck

below were three fishing lines rigged with artificial squid,

red, green and black. It wasn't long before we saw tuna

leaping and Jesus circled around while our deck hand Luis

threw out a bait fish to tempt them.  We were rewarded by a

tug on the line and our fishing companion Ben pulled in a

yellow tuna with its vivid blue and yellow racing stripes and

bright yellow sawtooth fins protecting the underbelly. The

others in our party, Norm, Charlie, and Jean took turns

pulling in fish and by ll:30, we had boated three yellow

tuna, and one striped marlin with the help of Luis, always

quick to dash down the ladder and cast out a bait or gaff a

fish. Luis moved like quicksilver as he expertly rigged lines

and tossed them out nonchanlantly.

     During a lull, the boat rocked gently as Jesus spoke

Spanish to another boat captain on the marine radio. His

alert eyes scanned the water for leaping tuna or marlin.  He

had grown up on this sparsely populated coast and knew the

sea and its inhabitants intimately.  His steel grey hair

curled around his weathered face.  Jesus put the radio

receiver down and chatted with me companionably about his

fishing career on the Baja while we waited for another


     "I started fishing commercially for shark with my father

at age eleven.  At fifteen, I started working on a

sportsfishing boat and have done this for the past 30 years.

I had no chance to go to school," he said.

     "Do you like your job?" I asked.

     "Si" he answered.

     "I know a lot of people who would like to trade jobs

with you," I said scanning the water for leaping tuna, the

telltale scythe like fin of marlin, or perchance, a whale.

     "There's a sea lion," Jesus noted.  Rocking gently in

the sea with its flippers pointing toward the sun as if

receiving a boon, the sea lion basked, oblivious us,

perfectly at home in the Sea of Cortez named after the

armored conquistodor who discovered it, then ravaged much of

Mexico.  Above us black frigate birds gliding on the wind

searched the water for small fish below them, or other sea

birds they could steal fish from. Frigate birds are the

pirates of the air.

     Thinking this would be a good time to eat lunch, I

pulled out a chicken stuffed tortilla.  "Pass me some of that

hot sauce," I asked.  Norm handed it up from below.  Norm and

I had never fished for marlin before.  We had fished the

Great Lakes fresh water for coho, chinook, and pink salmon as

well as lake trout, steelhead and football sized brown trout.

A marlin had just been a dream until our friend Charlie

introduced us to his favorite place on the Baja, Spa Beuna

Vista, and his favorite captain.  It was easy to see why

Jesus was much sought after.  He was unfailingly considerate

and usually found fish.  The results today were in the fish


     For some weeks before we arrived el nino had been

blowing.  This was fortunate for us we were told, since

el nino blows across the Baja every three or four years and

is likely to bring good deep sea fishing.  The day, February

26, was sunny with a breeze blowing, not too rough, not too

calm, a perfect day for fishing.  The previous days had been

too windy for comfort causing the boat to pitch drunkenly.

Even so we had caught three yellow fin tuna and had seen ten

marlin near the surface.  This day was perfect.  I was happy

to be on board.

     At high noon suddenly, out of the black and white sea, a

magnificent fish struck--Norm grabbed the rod from its holder

cranking the reel.  He knew the fish was hooked well on the

artificial lure. Within seconds it stripped off hundreds of

feet of line, rocketing out of the sea, and splashing down

again and again.

    I caught my breath at the sight of the fish leaping so

far ahead of the boat. Could this really be the same fish on

the line?  It was too far away from the boat.  It didn't

behave like the other marlin. Even from a distance I could

see its lance like snout, its large dark eyes its scimitar

shaped tail and its flying grace as it arced back into the

water.  I could see that Jesus was excited.  "It's a blue

marlin," he shouted turning the wheel of the boat.

     "We are lucky today," he said. "It is early in the

season for a blue marlin."

     Luis reeled in the other lines to keep them clear of the

great fish on the other end of Norm's line.  Norm played the

fish in a welter of waves amid our cheers and whoops. The

marlin sounded tugging the 80 pound test line, down, down,

down.  Again the great blue broke water as Norm played it.

It ran with the line and he played it, letting it take its

time, reeling, playing it out.  At last he reeled it in close

the boat and we caught sight of the marlin's luminous

markings, periwinkle blue shading to violet fins appeared

above the water, and Luis gaffed the fish grabbing it by its

lance like bill. He lashed it securely to the stern of the

boat with a rope.  Blue marlin are so highly prized for their

white flesh that a fish like this was a bonanza for our

captain; it would feed a lot of people in a country that is

none to prosperous. If this were not so, we would have

released the fish.

     On our way again, Charlie said he'd like to catch a

dorado so we begin trolling again.  Jesus observed seven

marlin fins nearby.  The fish were basking, enjoying a fine

day.  Luis threw out a bait fish to interest them and one of

them hit his line, but the reel fouled.  We tried again.  All

about us we saw marlins leaping, tuna leaping.  At his

vantage point on the upper deck Jesus could see 360 degrees

and never missed any movement on the water.

     "Why do fish leap?" I asked.

     "Because they are happy," Jesus replies.  It seemed to

     be true.

     Another marlin struck and this time Ben grabbed the rod.

After another leaping, heart-catching battle, he landed a

striped marlin, then released it back into the sea.

     "I want to see a whale," I say to Jesus.  At this time

of year and through the month of March, humpback whales breed

in the warm waters off the Baja peninsula. The words were

barely out of my mouth when the leviathon materialized,

leaped high in the air right directly in front of the boat.

I let out a cheer that brought the rest of the crew topside.

The whale leaped again and sounded leaving a dark blue hole

in the black waters. Awesome.

     "Where did he go?"  We all peered in every direction.

Then we saw him spout and the great back curved gracefully

beneath the water, its rakish tail, grey on top and white

underneath, disappeared as I wondered if the whale was as

interested in us as we were in him.  He seemed in no hurry to

leave, but after he did, we decided to call it a day.

     Back on shore, the crew hoisted the blue marlin onto a

scale and it weighed in at 356 pounds.  The striped marlin

weighed l65 pounds and the three yellow tuna about 60 pounds

a piece.  That evening the dining room at the resort Spa

Beuna Vista served us a delicacy, suchi, thin slices of red

raw tuna dipped in soy sauce, and the piece de resistance,

the fine white meat of the blue marlin a dinner fit for the

most finicky gourmet.

     El nino gifted us with a tremendous boon from the sea.



A Kantele Day

This October day is a kantele
Played in a minor key—
Foggy harmonics shake wet green leaves
Roll over me—

Kantele notes roll over
Wet green leaves
Of trumpet vine

Drop their sounds
On the dunes
On the lake

And enter me.

                               --Barbara Spring

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Robert Bly

Here is Robert Bly in Rhinelander WI.  He conducted a poetry workshop there and we also wrote a fairy tale.  Bly is well known for his books and workshops.  The time I spent in Rhinelander was inspiring.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Tikal Guatemala

What we had seen from the plane were the tops of tall temples poking up above the jungle. Now in a mini bus we passed through a countryside where men carried machetes on their way to fields and women carried water jugs on their heads or dried beans on cloths in their yards. Wild turkeys crossed the roads. The minibus stopped at a roadside stand-the driver seemed enchanted by the beautiful girl selling a few snacks-and we were told we could use the bushes if we needed a rest stop. 

When we reached Tikal we asked if we could have overnight accommodations for there is more than can be seen in one day. We sat and waited until finally we were told that we could have a room in a jungle lodge. We were lucky. If we had not stayed overnight, we never would have heard the haunting sounds of jungle birds and monkeys that surrounded us after dark. Also, there was to be a full moon, and we wanted to see Tikal 's tall temples in the moonlight. 

We joined a group touring the ruins. Tikal is layer upon layer of temple pyramids. The Mayans just kept building on top of former temples. I had a strange feeling as we viewed nine stellae dedicated to the nine underground gods. As we followed our guide we saw that Tikal was once a huge metropolis with broad causeways and squares designed for pageantry on a grand scale. 

The square with its great temples on each side is filled with sounds of flocks of parrots, monkeys, toucans and the voices of the Montezuma oro pendula birds. Their woven nests are like an oriole's and their bell like voices echo off the temple walls. The big beautiful birds, lemon yellow and rust, nest in groups around the ruins each year. The temples face north, east and west but never south. Strutting around the temples are wild turkeys that make a deep drumming noise to show off. 

As we walked through Tikal, we saw temples that had been excavated and others that were still overgrown with jungle trees, vines and soil. The jungle is filled with trees cultivated by the Maya; kapok, balsa, cork, rubber trees, nut trees, allspice tree used for embalming. Chocolate was considered sacred. Spider monkeys and howler monkeys drop debris down at us from the tree tops. 

We wondered at the limestone pyramids carved with masks, the ball courts where life and death games were played, aqueducts, market place, and coliseum. We visited the museum that contains a burial, a tall skeleton surrounded with shells, food jars, jade balls, jade anklets, necklaces. It is the burial found in a pyramid. 

Tikal means the voice of the spirits. In the main square, the acoustics are astounding. What spirits are here? We saw carved bones in the museum, a jaguar with a human face, a serpent with a face emerging from a dragonish serpent's mouth. By day we walked carefully through jungle paths following our guide. Poisonous snakes, the fer de lance and coral snakes are found here. We were careful not to step on army ants marching in formation on the jungle floor. We had no guide at night but we decided to walk through the jungle to see the temples in the light of a full moon. The fragrance of night blooming flowers filled the air and a musky smell-was it a jaguar or a fox? Something was near. Maybe the mythical jaguar man. Then through an opening in the jungle, we sew the glorious sight of Tikal's temples splashed with the clear light of a huge moon--the place of spirit voices. We heard them all around us.

By Barbara Spring

Friday, September 23, 2016

Journey to South Korea with Norm Spring

Our Recent Journey to South Korea  click the link.

Norm received a Peace Medal from the South Korean government for fighting on the front lines.

We met others who received the Peace Medal who fought as United Nations soldiers.  Some of these veterans were from South Africa, India, Scotland, England and many from the United States.

Norm was not wounded, but some veterans had wheel chairs and artificial limbs.

Click the link above for a story that ran in our local newspaper, The Grand Haven Tribune and also a video from Reuters.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review of The Wilderness Within by Barbara Spring

    From The Lethbridge Insider: Editors Pick
Finding Transcendence In Nature
Canada  (11/10/2003)        On the cover of Barbara Spring’s first poetry
collection, the Wilderness Within, a polar bear saunters across the ice.
Given the rugged-sounding title and the harsh arctic climate depicted in the
photo, it is obvious that the writer has a love of nature. But why these
particular images I asked. Perhaps she’s a person intrigued by nature’s more
sublime qualities, the awe-inspiring grandeur of mountains and icebergs for
instance. Does she wander the countryside in a dress of Prussian blue, like
Dorothy Wordsworth, gathering her poems from nature?
Spring is a keen observer, and she does wander in the footsteps of the
Romantic poets: Like them she seeks to find a revelation of Truth in nature,
a point of universal connection. In the poem On Puget Sound she finds this
on the beach: Underneath my feet/tangled tree roots feel their way/ . . .
The roots know I am here-/They send the message of me through networks-/ . .
. And the gray whale I greeted in Baja last winter/also knows I am here. . .
In Dark Energy, her belief in oneness and regeneration is clear: The dark
universe exhales-/ . . . In our hearts we know/there breathes a oneness:/the
earth, the stars, beyond./Those we love we will see again.

>From the freshwater seas of the Great Lakes near her home on Lake Michigan,
to Puget Sound, the Galapagos, Africa, Mexico and the Midwest prairie, she
feels these eternal rhythms of nature, in her ears, bones and soul. For her,
ideas spring forth and are often expressed in delicate phrasings: There’s an
ice bear with hollow hair; the velvet buckhorns of a deer; frozen frog eggs
as stiff as little glass jugs; wood frogs dappled in sleek green suits; the
liquid halls of an ocean; and Fishbone lattices. A number of her
alliterations are also rather good: in the forest a fawn stands for the
first time; The Day Lily comes/carrying its candelabra/of burning candles;
Canadian Geese Fat with summer’s grasses/Stuffed with Saskatchewan Corn.

While the transcendence of nature is the predominate theme in this
collection, not all of Spring’s poems are solemn. In fact, many are playful.
In Whale Songs she communes with humpbacks and imagines them asking in
puzzlement, “Woman, why don’t you sing to me?” Two Horses has a similar
mood. When she tells them how handsome they are the old one strikes a show
horse pose/even though he is bony, spavined, swaybacked. The young one looks
at her with the eyes of a child/on the first day of school.

Another fun aspect of Spring’s book is the inclusion of shape poems, where
the text is formed like its subject. My Kites is quite entertaining as is My
Strawberries. Other times her poems read like colourful social commentary.
Birth Control for the Earth Mother Rampant Upon a Fruitful World is a good
example of this. It’s about a painter-woman whose creativity flows from her
femaleness; a goddess on the birth control pill who remains fecundate, by
giving birth to canvas.

In her work Spring draws from many traditions, including Christianity and
Darwinism. Jonah’s Journey is of course a retelling of the parable, Jonah
and the Whale. In a poem called Praise, where a reader would expect
religious underpinnings however, the tone is instead deliberately secular in
its celebration of universal and individual contrasts. After travelling to
the Galapagos Islands, Spring writes an essay that she dedicates to Charles
Darwin, a tribute to the evolution of species. This experience thus becomes
another testament to the eternal and universal connection she believes all
life energy has.

The Wilderness Within is available at, bn.,com, and many other online and brick and mortar stores such as The Bookman in Grand Haven, MI, Schuler Books and Music etc.

My Amazon Page  click the link for my books etc.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Poem and Watercolors by Barbara Spring


Geese filled fields and apple fragrant orchards
Fruit stands bursting bins—
Bees tumble in velvet blooms
Gather sweetness, fly through honeyed air.
Grapes hang heavy on vines, purple, red and green.
Such sweetness asks you to breathe out blessings there.
Salmon streak streams with silver
And hunters lie in twilight darkening
Waiting for swift white tail deer.

                       --Barbara Spring