There are things you can do every day, like the crossword puzzle, and there are things that can only be done when time and opportunity present themselves. Sometimes the windows close so quickly that a passion once so simple and ever present appears remote and complicated.
Cats kept indoors too long will still spring to life at the sight of a live mouse; the instinct to hunt never goes dormant. So it all comes together: a short trip to Florida, a window of time along a shoreline, a fly rod in hand.
I’ve heard musicians talk of the phenomenon of the space in between notes. Maybe it’s like that…the spaces in between the routine that produce moments of electricity.
This is all to say, I hadn’t been fishing in a while but I went, and it felt good.
Jim Harrison, reading some of his work.
He’s lived in the house next door since 1956 and he’s always up early working in his garden or, since the fall, raking leaves. He’s 91 now and he’s lived alone since his wife passed away.
The other day he fell down the stairs with such velocity that he crashed through the drywall and broke his hip. Bloodied, dazed and unable to walk he dragged himself across the entire first floor of his house and somehow knocked the phone off the wall and called for help.
After the blizzard, another neighbor and I shoveled his driveway for him and I noticed the sticker on his back fender. “World War II Vet. Semper Fi.”
You may lose a lot of things when you grow old, but toughness, it seems, never fades.
When the fish have migrated there are the mountains. Regardless of what some say on the other side of the Divide, they exist in the East. Skiing is a lot like fly fishing in that despite the heavy investment in time, energy and equity there is really no point to its pursuit. Which, to many, is precisely the point. Wiser souls agree:
“Living’s mostly wasting time, and I’ll waste my share of mine.” –Townes Van Zandt
Thank you TVZ, I believe I will throw another log on the fire.
In the coming year, I resolve to smile more.
The old priest wrote the letter to Aunt Peg by hand. “You are of Clan Ian Roudh (Red John),” the letter starts. The direct family line in America went through Ian Liath (Grey John), who emigrated from the Highlands to Canada in 1786. He was a Gaelic poet.
The script is still strong on the faded photocopies, made of the original sent by Father Ewan to Aunt Peg in 1955. “He came from Knoydart,” the letter continues, “on the west coast of Scotland.” It’s part of an area known as the Rough Bounds.
I remember viewing the rugged, empty hills from my own trip to Scotland, on the way to the Isle of Skye. The land looked muscular, with protruding rock and muted vegetation and dark, cold waters. The rolling clouds and chill wind added to the sense of untamed foreboding. And emptiness.
“There are few if any of our people in the Highlands,” wrote Father Ewan. “You know why.” He was speaking of the Highland Clearances, when the British Lords drove the people out of the hills and replaced them with sheep.
True, our clan migrated down from Ontario into the States, overtly retaining their Catholocism and, maybe subconciously, the imprint of Knoydart.
“Our people did better in this country,” wrote Father Ewan. And that sentence stuck. We are here now, in cities and towns and interconnected. Are we meant to seek areas away from comfort? Sometimes it’s necessary to put the laptop down and find out.