The first and only time I went deep-sea fishing, I caught a huge ocean tally. Sadly watching the life slowly escape him as he flopped around on the deck trumped any feeling of victory I had while reeling him in.
Although that experience prevented me from going fishing again (or eating meat for more than eight years), I now find myself practicing catch and release.
I find it in my dating pattern and my checking account. And I find it as another one of my good friends moves away from Steamboat Springs -- again.
I know, we go through this every week. I should be used to it by now.
In a transient town, the only thing that is constant is change, and most things in Steamboat seem to revolve around the seasons that come and go.
It's always hard to imagine when you're staring down between your skis on a lift that grass and little thorny bushes will replace all that champagne powder. And when summer arrives with its flip-flops and tank tops, it erases the memory of those freezing winter mornings that reach negative temperatures.
Every spring and fall, I watch many of my friends move on. Maybe they know if they stay to see the beginning of another gorgeous summer or epic winter, they will get reeled back into the eddy of our alluring town.
Steamboat has a way of making you forget about the outside world and go with the flow of your busy social life and exhausting outdoor activities. You may be traveling a lot during the seasons in between, but you still can lack direction.
My friend who's leaving this time is going back to school. He has reached his mid-30s life crisis, and no ski run or mountain biking trail can point him in the direction of yet another degree.
In our little fish bowl of Steamboat, at least we know there always will be enough bait to bring our friends back to visit. If rainbow trout (who are native to the Yampa River) can migrate more than 1,000 miles to spawn, then high gas prices aren't stopping anyone from reuniting.
My last good friend who moved away returned last weekend to identify the "catch and release" theme in my life. And I caught time with him before he returned to the big city to finance his new big mortgage on his little plastic castle.
I always will remember the one time I went deep-sea fishing. The victory of catching that huge ocean tally did not outweigh the guilt of eating him. Although I am no longer a vegetarian, the cause-and-effect consequence it had on me resonates as a recurring theme. If I knew I could have released him, maybe I would have become better at letting go of some the things I am hooked on in Steamboat, such as my good friends.