November 15, 2010


Bad weather always looks worse through a window.
Tom Lehrer

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.
Aldous Huxley

Fall teeters on the edge...
I walk quickly over the fallen leaves, under and around bare trees and bushes. The river seems loud, whether it is because of the lack of acoustics or the increased flow is a toss-up. It is starkly visible as I go, in places where up until very recently I could barely hear though still not see it.

Dark days.

They string together monotonously, deceiving my sense of time, of perception; passing innocuously into each other without pause, leaving time behind, unrecorded, unremarkable, waiting, each day, for this, the slow, steady descent into winter.

I reach what is left of the rocky promontory where just a few weeks ago I ruled the seam curling away from the now submerged point. The river has tipped the scales again. Evened the playing field. Changed the game. Cooler, higher water. The character, the peculiarities, are now hidden beneath flows that will not reveal their secrets again until well into the summer of the coming year.

I wade in. Look for white rocks. Find viable purchase on the granite that was for months exposed to the sun, that has not yet acquired the slippery patina of microscopic growth. Waist deep is again a bit of a gamble. I took a fall, and then a swim here last December, simultaneously hooking a nice buck, slipping off a precarious perch, jamming my foot into a crack between two rocks and creasing my forehead on another as I fell, nearly losing consciousness for a moment. Figured I was in the water for about two minutes. I've heard stories about 'dry drowning', although I admit to not having faced up to the reality of it happening to me. Sobering thought. I tell myself I'm more cautious now, but I wonder. I know about the risk I take, but, even at this age, well, here I am. And by the same token, nothing ventured, nothing gained, even if it's just a memory. Besides, when the snows blanket the river's edges it will become that much more difficult. But, as I already know, that will quite simply make it more enticing. Something about just my tracks, about a tight line, and weight. Something about a lone figure profiled against the whiteness tight to a trout in the middle of a city living life for real.

The swing will be deep. And slow. The river is colder, and deeper. Its inhabitants move slowly, preserving resources. The take, should it occur, will be at the end of the swing, where my weighted soft hackle will dangle at the end of its arc, moving back and forth in the fluctuating hydraulic for several seconds before I begin a slow, methodical retrieve. I roll a short cast straight out into the flow, and mend, watching the end of my fly line. The arc completed, I wait several seconds before beginning my retrieve. Each cast carves an arc further from me. The rhythm is narcotic. Time passes, carrying my wandering thoughts surreptitiously downstream.

This is not the season for swinging flies. It is not the most efficient method. It would be to my advantage now, should I be so intent on hooking fish, to drift two, or maybe even three small weighted nymphs or chironomids, or a combination of the above, under an indicator. Lob the whole assortment upstream and watch it pass me in its drift, waiting to see my 'bobber' do its thing. I have fished this way, and have had success. I guess it's really a matter of the relativity of that success, though. The desire to go through the expansive task of first finding then affixing a certain set of weighted flies underneath an indicator that will be somehow (given the severe lack of casting room available anywhere on this river right now) be transported, usually by an ingenious cast of a hybrid nature upstream to land safely (without fouling) several times before either hooking a fish or, after a lengthy but frustrating trial being hauled out and completely refurnished... well, let's just say, at this particular point in time I'd rather not put myself through that. Success isn't always measured in statistics, although I know I'm here of the minority opinion.

I continue to cast, and mend as my mind travels itinerantly across the landscape of my life. Over and through the fields of memory, the webs of interaction, the scope of joys and losses. People in my life who have come and gone, those who have left an indelible mark, come into view. In one way or another, they all have left me with something. It should be a requirement that at some point in our lives we acknowledge all of those who have affected the substance of our existence, and, for me, there have been many. And then I think that it probably would have all been infinitely easier to do this had I the quality to know then what I know now. Maybe the fact that even though it's later rather than sooner, I still did have this thought, although unless there's some kind of magical way that this epiphany gets relayed to the subjects in question, how much real good it would do is up for discussion. I quietly vow to give this further thought, even though I cannot imagine now where I would start, or where it would take me could I d efine a way to do that.

I travel on, down the dusty, dimly lit corridors, here and there stopping to open doors and peer inside. The smiling young faces of my sons as they chase the big Malemute around the back yard... their comfortable attentiveness as I read to them... the horribly painful years of conflict they were subjected to...

... and it is again made clear to me that just as there are those who have effected changes in the substance of my life, so too have I been a factor, (no matter how important or insignificant)in the lives of those I have known. I still really have a hard time with this one, not being one to ever put much stock in the importance of my life in general, especially when it relates to interactions with those around me. Talk about feelings of insignificance! But, that's something for me to work on; to continue to work on. The idea that I have ever had anything of real substance to offer is, to me privately, sometimes more than a bit of a stretch. But, also privately, I'm okay with that. All I can do is work with what I've got, which is not really a lot, but it is what it is.

I think forward, as I tie another soft hackle, a smaller one, onto my tippet below the heavier, larger one, into the days and years to come. I think about what it will be like when I am gone. There is a relativity here that I have become aware of in the months following my father's passing. I think of my brother, and my sisters, how they, in my eyes, have changed since dad's death. I wonder if they see a change in me. I wonder if they miss him. I find it odd that he seldom,if ever, comes up in conversations that take place between us. My mother rarely, if ever, speaks of him. I wonder why. And although I have asked her would she care to visit his interment site, while appearing to be eager to go, has yet to do that. Neither have any of the others. I wonder why.

I miss my dad. Still. Odd, too, in that we were, for so many years, not close. But his absence has exposed a huge hole in the fabric of my life. I wonder why that is. I wonder if my siblings feel the same way...

There is presently a strong, jerking pull. My rod bends, and pulsates. The coils of line on the surface of the water at my feet are quickly ripped up through the rod as the fish strikes out across the current. I realize that my hands are cold. They react slowly to what needs to be done. The last coil of fly line snaps upward, loops around my reel, and the line goes taut. Urgently I attempt to unwrap the line, unsuccessfully. I feel one last strong pull before the tippet, stretched beyond its limitations, snaps. The line goes limp.

Across the river a Great Blue Heron jumps into flight, turning away downstream.

I wonder if he's grinning.

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