Tackle Box Holds Secret to Teaching, Life

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English teacher learns many of the secrets of life when she loses herself in a Zen-like state of surf fishing.

"Maybe that’s why fish travel in schools," laughs Dorothy K. Fletcher, author of Zen Fishing and Other Southern Pleasures and long-time teaching veteran. Her new book which celebrates life and praises the virtues of quiet reflection has just been released by Ocean Publishing.

"Children today suffer greatly from culture-overload—television, video games, cell phones, radio. Add to that all the temptations that are presented to our kids, and you can see that they just have too little time to be still and ponder things."

So in writing her own book, Fletcher used a classroom model for writing that she developed for her students. Twice a week, she insists that her students write in journals while she plays instrumental CD’s to enhance the experience. While the students write, the teacher writes.

Then, after a time, Fletcher collected all of her more contemplative, gentler pieces and poems and put them into a collection using as the title piece one of her favorite pastimes—surf fishing, or as she calls it, "Zen fishing."

"I find that one cannot become too stressed out when becoming one with a reel and rod," she says. "With all the focus on wondering if that twitch is a fish about to take the bait or just the motion of the waves, you just get into ‘the zone.’ That is where I find peace. I lose myself and my troubles as I focus on the moment."

Zen Fishing and Other Southern Pleasures is also a celebration about life in the South. Fletcher’s family moved to the north Florida area from Illinois when she was just seven.

"It was a very trying time for my family and me. I write about our arrival in the piece called ‘The Great Snow of ’57.’ We nearly froze to death in our Florida paradise," she laughs again. "Still, I would never leave the place now. It is a wonderfully mythic place. So much history exists here, and while it still exists, so does a wonderful eco-system."

Dorothy Fletcher’s book also has much to say about family, traditions, and taking time from busy schedules to enjoy one’s surroundings.

"As my writer uncle said to me long ago, ‘Good writers pay attention!’ and I know now that he is right. I take note of birds outside and fireflies at dusk and lonesome train whistles in the distance. I try to instill this ‘paying attention’ concept in my students. I assign them sensory writing exercises. I insist that my students pay attention to the world that surrounds them. Then I make them write about it.

"As a result, not only has our writing improved, but all of us also seem to get along much better. My guess is that we feel connected in our human experience when we write. We seem less stressed, and that I believe is a very is a good thing. Just like ‘Zen fishing,’ no?"

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