Watch Your Line

I wish it was an azul piñata, stuffed with sweet treats and a token of some happy event. Or maybe a dazzling blue wind chime softly ringing in the breeze beside the lake. I’d even be content if it was a cobalt kite draped over a branch, dropped from the sky. The reality, however, is that my blissful moment staring across the water towards granite cliffs is horribly interrupted. My brain processes what is dangling from the branch overhanging the submerged boulders where my fish friends rest.

It is indeed a token. It is the spirit bird that I once dreamed I could follow. It is a stellar’s jay, the noisy azure flash of feathers that lives in the mountains we love. When we still lived on dusty, wind blown plains I envied this special jay clan. Now I greet them as neighbors, even if they are the type that will steal your camp snacks and yell at you for not bringing the right kind.

This bird that now haunts me hangs by its foot. It spins in the breeze, caught in discarded fishing line. Just a few days earlier I’d been horrified to see a beautiful small bird on top of Mount Whitney hobbled by green thread caught around its foot. “Threadfoot” sang happily as she tried to secure a treat from my husband, but her ankle adornment hampered flight. She hopped around. A thread no one thought about on top of the highest point in the lower 48 wasn’t keeping her from begging. And now this dead jay, trapped in a nylon hell because someone came to fish. I cannot look at it. I find a new spot to pursue trout.

Every inch of discarded line has capacity to upset a balance. I see it at almost every lakeshore and river bank we go to, even the most remote. Now the bits and pieces flash me back to that jay. I’ll pick it up and take it out, but ask that we all do better. The animals have it hard enough out there without us being thoughtless. We don’t need to be catching any more birds. Please, watch your line.

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