I could hear the rain lightly hitting my tent's fly, and I couldn't fall back asleep. My family wasn't having any problem though, so I grabbed my rain coat, unzipped the tent and slipped out, sneaking a peek at the cozy and content looks on their faces, bundled into the sleeping bags. I started our usual morning fire at the campsite, and the warmth of the small blaze was just what was needed - along with a cup of camp coffee - to get the morning started right.
I pulled on my cold and damp waders, grabbed my fly rod and made my way out into the stream, methodically casting upstream, mending my line, lifting it off the water and repeating. There is something about the rhythm of fly casting that is almost poetic - it can be learned in a day yet can't be mastered in a lifetime. I was alone, save for the bald eagle in the top of the trees across the river who was keeping a keen eye on my casts. I could see my breath, it was raining and the temperature was chilly. It was perfect.
Finally, it happened - my line was taut, and a surge of adrenaline shot through my body. No matter how many fish I catch in my lifetime, no matter how big or how small they are, the rush never gets old. I felt that as a kid fishing for salmon with my dad, and it's never changed. After a brief struggle, I netted a small grayling - a beautiful fish, almost prehistoric looking. I unhooked the fish and slowly slid it back in the water. One flick of its tail, and it was gone. I was alone, there were no pictures taken to document the moment, but there didn't need to be. It was another memory that I wouldn't forget.
That's when it really sunk in. Looking around, all I could think about was, "This."
This, this is what I am thankful for in life. For the smell of a campfire on the riverbank, miles from the nearest person, in Alaska, the greatest place in the world. For everything that growing up in Alaska taught me throughout my childhood, and for everything it's teaching my daughter now. But mostly, I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend my days in a place I love, with the people I love, and having no regrets.
Just as I started to really get introspective about everything I was thankful for, I heard the tent unzip behind me. "We don't want to come out and get wet. Can you make breakfast and bring it to us?"
I'm thankful for being a dad.