It was in Calaveras County, in the foothills of the Sierras in the ’60’s.  I was 6.

We went to a forestry preserve – maybe a fishery, and likely in Big Trees State park.

We walked into a small flat meadow, where a forest ranger in short sleeves knelt at an impossibly straight little stream, his hands reaching in the water, and his eyes looking intently at his hands.

We walked up, and stood across the stream from him, the three of us, my hand in my mother’s hand.  Just stood there. I asked him a question. Like I do. I asked him, “What are you doing?”

He didn’t respond.  Didn’t even look up, though his mouth moved silently.

I asked again.  No response.

Just as I was pulling in  breath to ask again, my mother leaned down and whispered “Shhh. He’s counting fish.”

The sun filtered through massive redwoods.  The water sparkled like an invisible cloak between two dimensions made visible for a just a moment. And I learned something:

Counting fish requires complete focus. It’s a reason for a grownup not to answer a child, even if the grownup is friendly.

Later I learned there are many kinds of fish that people count.  Most are not actually fish, and the people aren’t always counting. I’d discovered focus.

Just as I was pulling in breath to ask again, my mother leaned down & whispered: Shhh. He’s counting fish. Click To Tweet

Today the Verizon guy was fiddling with yellow cables in the box outside my porch. I saw him outside the window and walked outside to ask him a question. Like I do. But first, I stopped.

“Are you thinking?” I asked him.

“Nope, I’m never thinking” he answered.

“Then can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” he said.

And that’s how I learned to reprogram the password on my modem.

Lucky for me he wasn’t counting fish today.

Or maybe he already had them numbered.

When did you first discover focus?

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