Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.
Several years ago, maybe more than ten now, I came across this quote. For whatever reason, I'd written it down on a yellow college-ruled legal pad. It was rediscovered the other day, still unwrinkled and crisply folded, as I went about rooting through a corner of my closet stacked with discarded clothes in search of an old t-shirt that I used to wear each and every time I went fishing, a t-shirt that says, simply, 'life is good' above a small but personable graphic of a fish.
I found the paper in the old duffel at the bottom of the pile. This aged piece of my fishing history was for a long time the unit into which I packed everything I would need to have in the tent with me when I was out on an expedition for few days. The last time I used that old, now quite pungent, time-odored bag was for a weekend camping/fishing expedition to the Lochsa River which, after the following discourse about the shirt, will regain focus as the center point of my offering. I'd worn that shirt on every expedition since up until a few years ago when it suddenly went missing, and yes, I could be a tad bit superstitious sometimes, and yes, I still am, for that matter.
Back to the quote, and to the Lochsa.
It was to me back in those days a quite agreeable thing to have in my possession a good book whenever I undertook an expedition. After a day of chasing trout, a good hot meal next to warm fire, and maybe some flies tied under the headlamp, I would look forward to crawling into my sleeping bag to read. And, as of the time of this particular trip, I'd been enamored with several authors from around the turn of the century whose works had eventually made it to the Broadway stage. So, with a compilation of three of Mr. O'Neill's stage dramas in my bag and my Gazateers in the passenger's seat, I set off.
I wasn't too far into the first of his offerings when I came across the words at the top of this post. They immediately found purchase with me. I couldn't help but relate them to my fishing and the pursuit of trout. I love it when things I read, or hear, or experience adds fuel to the fire of my desire to do what it is that breathes such vibrancy and color to my existence.
Later that night, I was startled into wakefulness by a most intense electrical storm accompanied by torrential wind and rain. Huddled in my tent listening to the tumult outside pounding the nylon walls, I was grateful for the advice I'd received upon arrival from an older gentleman who stopped by as I unpacked my gear. He was setting up his fifth wheel in the next space.
" You'll want to dig a trench around your tent. And find the high ground to set up on, like over there", he said, pointing. "You'll understand why if the weather folks are right. And if it gets too bad? Well, I'm real close."
By the next morning, aside from a few downed tree limbs and wet ground, you would have never known what blew through, although my fire pit was full of water. I grabbed my old coffee can and scooped out several cans full. The rest would drain out over the course of the day. On my way out I stopped and knocked on the old man's door.
He answered straight away, and I had the feeling he'd been checking on me periodically. I thanked him for his sage advice the afternoon before and he smiled.
"Which way are you going", he asked? "Up? Down?"
"First time I've fished this river" I replied. " But I thought I'd head back upstream and work my way down. It's early yet. That'll give me time to do a little investigating. How about you"?
He looked off upstream into the canyon, and a smile began to wrinkle in the corners of his mouth. Stepping down to face me, he put his hand on my shoulder.
"Tell you what. About six, maybe seven miles downstream the water slows. There's a logging road that takes off the inside of the curve back toward the water. You'll see it. Stay on that dirt track for as long as it takes for it to end. That's where I'll be from three this afternoon until dark. If you come, knock on my door when you drive up. I'll be taking a nap."
He squeezed my shoulder, smiled, and turned to go back up the stair. But I caught the glisten of a tear welling up in the corner of his eye.
"You remind me of some one I once knew very well. It kind of takes me back into some fond memories."
And I knew he was referring to himself. And I think it was me, many years down the road, that I was talking to.
I turned and headed back to my car, a tear glistening in the corner of my eye.