Life could kick you in the ass brutally hard and a day spent fishing a creek or a river and you forgot the kick.
Jim Harrison, The Farmer's Daughter, Brown Dog Redux
Saturday marks the beginning of my sixty-first year. That's privately a little amazing to me. I remember an early morning many moons ago. My then best friend Ray and I are blasting along in his convertible yellow bug sans headlights (a la The Green Hornet and I date myself) connecting ethereal dots and waxing as philosophically possible as it is to do so when influenced by the cubensis we'd harvested less than twenty-four hours ago nearly three hundred miles to the west. Just another day in the life.
At some point, as it invariably did, our conversation bent toward our lives,
as lived so far, with a then-thought searing insight into what was to come.
I watched a ten foot tall clown replete with blinking red nose crouch in readiness and then leap straight up into the sky as we approached and passed underneath him.
"Nice nose", I screamed, turning in my seat to watch him land on his toes, wave in our direction, then saunter off into the trees.
"It was blinking in time to the music", Ray stated matter-of-factly. And I took this all into account then thought aloud, " I won't live to see thirty."
He looked at me, grinned, shifted down and turned onto the cabin road.
I suppose all of us have stories to tell about our youth. How we cheated death, challenged the acceptable rules of behavior, or just plain walked around not feeling but being, really believing, we were so god-damned immortal. I stare at the pile of soft hackles accumulating on the foam pad behind my tying desk. Their lives are rather short. Unheralded, and very definitely short. Soon they will go into my boxes and life for them will change. Some will meet heroic ends in the mouths of wild trout whose death struggle snaps my tippet. Others will adorn trees, bushes, and submerged detritus. A few will be severely damaged even before getting to the water as my impatient backcast snaps them against the ancient rocks.
But, most will find the moving water. They will travel downstream to swing in the arc proposed by my tightened line. They will flash in the mind's eye of trout suspending clandestinely in the hydraulics, awaiting just such a chance for sustenance.
And the dance will begin again.
I don't know where my friend Ray is now, or where his life has taken him. I am sure he is alive and, knowing him as well as I once did, am sure he is doing well. I have not kept in touch with any of the people I once knew. Their lives, should I choose to wonder about them, are mysteries. As would be mine to them. I live clandestinely, suspended in the hydraulics of my life, casting flies to others who do the same.
There was, though, a bit of truth in my declaration in that early morning long ago. It just happened later on in my life.
I did die. And mercifully so. The man who walked away from that life is the real me.
Not immortal. Terribly terribly mortal.
Like my soft hackles.