Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blizzards and Beetles: or, Days Like Molasses.

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 4:50 a.m.

In the darkness of morning -- which is always lighter than the darkness of evening for some reason or another…perhaps it’s just knowing that light is coming soon...and that there is an end to the tunnel -- I push open the back door against a snow drift to let Banjo out. He doesn’t go far, and when I let him back in there’s a yellow spot in the snow on the deck. I can’t blame him though, the snow is taller than he is. 


Thirty inches, overnight.

I walk to the front door and turn on the porch light, assessing the possibility of making it up to Longmont to work on my rod today. And while there’s the possibility, the probability is low. A plow goes by, its lights flashing like strobes, morphing the dark canyon road into a dance club. My partner, a shovel. And our efforts are lost – the snow -- the beat, it's coming too fast and we can’t keep up. Big, exaggerated flakes make my world dizzyingly existent in a disco-ball-snow-globe. Banjo sits sulking by the cabin door, and after awhile, I walk back from the end of the driveway to let him inside and wake up Jay. I’ll need an extra hand -- well, two -- with this.

The canyon’s plows, part of the Jefferson County Road & Bridge division of public works, do an outstanding job. They have to. If the snow isn’t properly plowed with every storm, the pile up would be immense, and despite the usual teasings of not getting out ‘til spring, in that case, in all seriousness we probably wouldn’t. 


However, all of that snow they do such a wonderful job of removing from the road, must end up somewhere. And for my stretch of road, that just so happens to wind up being the foot of my driveway -- like the law of trajectory for buttered toast. It’ll be two days before I can find my mailbox again. I go back to working on the end of the driveway; Jay starts at the beginning. And in the light of the moon’s reflection off the snow, one can get a very real feel for what existence would be like in black and white. 

Finally, we meet in the middle around 7:30.

“Do you think I should go?” I ask.

Jay has to go down into town to shovel out and open up the fly shop today, bad roads or not. He’s the only one scheduled, and that’s one of the drawbacks to a small two-man operation: it doesn’t afford the luxury of sick or snow days.

“No…well, I’d stay tucked in here if I was you.”

It’s snowing harder again, and as much as I want to risk the roads – bamboo’s song being something of a siren – a day at home with the woodstove roaring inside and a blizzard roaring out, has a pull of its own – and it, as well as cautionary words last night emailed from my mother, tether me back. I worry her enough in life, I think, and send her an email: Staying home today. Plus, there’s time yet for my rod. Plenty of time. And it feels only right, true to its spirit, to not be rushed. But then again, maybe that’s just my tired rationale for staying home and nearby a roaring fire all day. Maybe. Yet these kinds of things we have to tell ourselves sometimes, we who tend to push ourselves a little too hard -- they are needed -- and I’m told you can justify anything -- yet some people are much better at this than others.

Quickly, I email Frank that I won’t be making the drive up, and set to making more coffee. After a few minutes, I pour it into a mug made by a New Mexican potter that my sister gave me for Christmas one year, and head back to my desk to tie some flies. I take black dyed elk hair, improvise, and end up with beetles. Beetles….of all things. I don’t often fish terrestrials for some reason. Why did I just tie these? Maybe it’s cabin fever, dreaming of backcountry summer streams where the trout are more than willing – where it’s quite easy for a fisherman to feel as though he’s being flirted with. No deep nymphing and no cold split shot. In that place, at that time, the trout come freely and warmly, and misses are the fisherman’s fault entirely -- like not picking up on an obvious green flag. Yes, she’s interested. The misses almost seem to come without price up in high country stream, without the pain of losing a fish, because you know there will always be another. Just like I surmise the good looking people in college know there will always be another. But I wouldn’t know about that. What I do know about, however, what I have learned, is that there very well might not always be another – and you shouldn’t plan on it (yet even so, that shouldn’t stop you from leaving). And in the same way, we can’t plan on those backcountry streams always having plenty -- always having another – at least, that is, if we continue thinking there is no price.

That type of backcountry small stream fishing -- while it doesn’t sound too difficult -- really is. Perhaps even more so than “technical” fishing -- for while wading a freestone stream cradled in a cirque which thousands of feet up is still covered with snow in late July, it is difficult to pay attention to your fly. Beauty in any form is often confusing, and distracting, and is almost always consuming.

Getting frustrated with my randomness, damn beetles, I move back near the woodstove,  settling into my rocking chair to watch the birds out the big picture window which looks up a draw. A few are out, puffed up against the snow. I know it’s for warmth, but it looks as though they are trying to intimidate the storm to a halt. Dark eyed juncos huddle beneath pine boughs, and when the snow lets up from time to time, white breasted nuthatches venture out for nibbles of suet on the feeders hanging underneath the eaves over the deck. The bully mountain jays and magpies though, aren’t as tough as they appear – I don’t see any of them until the snow stops completely and the sun breaks out.


Sunday, February 5, 2012 – 9:32 p.m.

Tonight, I write after two days of snow. Constant and grave in her charge of “storm,” leaving behind 41 inches. And tonight as I sit, hugged in the warmth of my woodstove, my muscles remembering why wet articles of clothing are draped on chairs and over the fire screen, I think about my rod. And I almost wish I had taken the chance on the roads. Almost. But then I think about watching birds feed and snow fall, savoring the slowness of it all -- like molasses being poured into batter. I haven’t left my house for three days now, and my mother was right, as always, the night before the blizzard hit when she said, “sometimes, you just need a day at home.” And sometimes, you just need a few...poured out like molasses.  




Listen to the story:
 

72 comments:

  1. Really nice story. Just read the print I made of it. It's so true that sometimes one have to take a day or a couple of days off. I had my day this Sunday since it was like 20 degrees below zero centigrade and everything was frozen. I think your rod will be ready for the spring anyway.

    Have fun continuing to finish your rod,
    M.O.

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    1. M.O. - Indeed...and I think it will be ready by spring too. Plus I think The Groundhog was right...spring is going to be late in coming. Thanks so much, as always!

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  2. I'm impressed that it takes over 3' of snow to keep you in Erin, we had a few inches over here last week and you'd have thought it was the end of the world from the fuss being made about 'Blizzard Britain' in the media. Anyway, a day or two at home is never wasted, there's always a book that needs reading and those flies, well they won't make themselves will they?

    It was good to hear your voice too - strangely, you sound almost exactly as I imagined you would.

    Keep warm.

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    1. Dave - Ah yes, I heard of your "Blizzard" over here too. ;) When it comes to weather, it's all relative. I grew up with tornadoes and they don't scare me a bit. But when I was in California, earthquakes freaked me out. Just what kind of devastation you're used to, eh? I'm glad me and my voice match! Just a little experiment...if people like it, I'll keep it up.

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  3. "Listen to the story". how NPR! ;) i like though, that's a nice feature.

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    1. Anonymous - How "NPR" indeed! I did manage to put my "test subject" to sleep on the second read through...I thought it didn't bode well for this little audio experiment. But then again, it was a late night... ;)

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  4. Forty-one inches of snow!!!! Holy smokes. Hardy. Very Hardy.

    And now you've got me thinking about tying some beetles. Must order some black elk hair.

    I'll carve out some time later to listen to the story (conference calls beckon).

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    1. Steve Z. - Right? Although it's strange, because a couple feet of snow is now seeming like small potatoes. 24 inches? No big deal. Weird. Yes. The beetles! They were driving me nuts... ;)

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  5. What fun to have you read it to us :-)

    Molasses, I remember the molasses cookies of my youth not only their rich flavor but their pungent black strap aroma.

    Molasses will always trigger memories of goat births in the barn and the after-birth reward of warm water laced with molasses to thirsty appreciative does. My "barnheart" is in full mode missing those days.

    sgb (Mama)

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    1. sgb - It's like a grown up storytime. And I don't have to plan crafts! hehe ;) Molasses makes me think of goat birthing as well...and my barnheart has been full of ache lately too. Maybe someday I will get a goat! But I'd have to turn the basement into a barn...I'd fear for it's life up against the lions and bears.

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  6. Oh yes, your voice it so NPR but that is a compliment :-)and ones ability to lull a person to sleep is not a bad thing either. Your voice must not be annoying, shrill, or grating think of it that way.

    Always the positive thinker...

    sgb

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    1. sgb - I remember on several occasions after concerts, people telling me I played so beautifully it put them to sleep. Which is kind of a compliment...but not what you want to hear. ;)

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  7. The older I got the less I liked the snow. In my younger days in California I had no problem with the high Sierras but nowadays, I'll wait till the roads are open. There are reasons I live at 250 feet in Missouri and not 9,000 feet in California. Lightweight, I know :-)

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    1. Marv - My neighbors have a year and a half old kid. By the time I'm a "lightweight," my plan is that he'll be old enough I can pay him to shovel me out. ;-)

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    2. Yeah, that worked for me until my kids got older,smarter, and moved out!

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    3. Marv - ha! Very true...I guess I'll just have to keep on shoveling...

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  8. ...like the law of trajectory for buttered toast...

    As mysterious as the ways of nature are, there are some immutable truths. This is one.

    Thanks for sharing your shut-in day with us. It's always a pleasure.

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    1. Mike - And somehow, immutable truths still carry on the mystery, eh? Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by...

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  9. Erin.. I like that you tied Black Beetles. They are always fighting for existence. They find a way to move on, no matter what you put in their way. Roll them on their back and they right themselves. Fighters.. survivalists. That was a fitting tie on a challenging day.
    We didn't get near as much snow in Aurora, but as I look out to the totally white surroundings, I think of the mountain streams or the lakes at Rainbow Falls. Springtime seems so far off but so did February at Christmas time. Your rod will be complete and we'll go fishing.

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    1. FlyFishingCrazy - Ah, you're right about the beetles...and like little Annie sang, the sun will come out tomorrow, eh? :)

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  10. I think you're mom was right, sometimes you just need a few. And tying some bugs that warm you up while thinking of easier days, well, that just seems like a good way to shake off the snow. And besides, I'm sure Banjo enjoyed the company.

    Cheers

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    1. Sanders - He does like having "his people" home...and really, why are mothers always right? ;)

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  11. Yay! I can't wait to listen -- I miss your voice! :)

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    1. Val - I used Audacity!!! And last night I was missing you and recording with you so very very much. :)

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  12. I've been okay with our no-snow winter in MN; easier to drive, the feeling of spring consistently just around the corner, warmer weather. But. BUT! How I would love a forty-one inch snow fall right now. Heavenly. Thanks for the share.

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    1. Emily - I know that this snow stormed its way into Nebraska...wish it would have gone north for you. There are a few months yet...and I do hope you get a good storm soon before spring! Thanks for reading!

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  13. I laughed when I saw thirty inches overnight. But I remember 40 inches overnight, and a dog that gave me the WTF look. And shoveling all day at the hatchery.
    Sounds like you need some time on the water,staring at fish.

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    1. Kirk - I think that maybe, that's what the 40 inch snows are good for...giving a good laugh in the bleak midwinter. When you don't really want to laugh. But, it is just so ridiculously overwhelming, you do. And yeah, I think I do need to get out on the water soon...spring or not!

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  14. I can almost hear Dick Gordon saying "and now, a story by Erin Block...." Great read, and glad to know the hills and it's residents are being replenished.

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    1. Rhythm Rider - I love "The Story"...! Thanks for reading/listening...and yeah, the hills certainly need the moisture. Good for fall fishing!

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  15. The hills are alive with the sound of music...and snow shoveling. Great read as always my friend.

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    1. Howard - It all just echoes into one giant cacophony...of peace. Thanks for listening along...

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  16. I like the listen feature! Makes the writing come alive. Made me feel I was there under all that snow. Nice to think about the rod resting, waiting patiently, maybe dreaming about--beetles.

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    1. Jim - Awesome! Thanks for the feedback! This was kind of a test run...just to see. I'll definitely do more! And I'd like to think the rod has been dreaming...about beetles too. ;)

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  17. Erin, looks like you and Banjo could use a few days away from the snow. But we know you do love it.

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  18. Holy cow! If you were back here in Iowa you wouldn't have to worry about all that snow! But I guess...the scenery... the streams and brooks...Hell, that's a fair trade. And the memories!

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    1. Casey - More than a fair trade, I'd say. But really, I do miss the plains...even with their absence of backcountry brookie streams. ;)

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  19. Erin, As always-great read. There are steelhead here in the Northwest being caught that measure as long as the snow is deep in your neck of the woods. How's that for putting things into perspective!!! The view from your window brings me to a peaceful place. Love it, thank you.
    -k8

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    1. k8 - Thanks! I just saw your photos posted on FB...nice!!! And yes, my windows always seem to be able to bring me to a peaceful place too...no matter the season. Thanks for stopping by!

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  20. Did you see Trout Unlimited's FB post today?

    "How's this mild winter affecting the fishing in your neck of the woods? Spring in February"

    I thought of you when I saw that. ;)

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  21. Our last snow went to about 3.5' over 1.5 days, and I have to admire your equanimity about the plow driver. After three good-sized ice berms get thrown up across my 200 foot long driveway, I begin to think of him as a servant of the cloven hooved deceiver rather than civil servant.

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    1. TC - Well I must say, I was damning them until midway through the second day of shoveling when one driver took pity on me out there attempting to clear out my mailbox...and actually drove in close to help clear it out. Unfortunately, I think that all just got pushed on down to the neighbor's mailbox. Someone is always downstream, eh? Thanks for stopping by!

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  22. Dearest Erin,
    LOVE the new addition - of sound! It only enhances your already excellent blog, old sausage, and transports your loyal 'listeners' to your door. Thank you.

    And surely, you are only one step away from a regular slot on a local/national radio station.

    I'm off out to buy one of those ipod thingymajigs so I can download the further adventures of Erin!
    BB.

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    1. Alan (BB) - I'm glad you like it! Although, I'm not so sure my voice is worthy of a new ipod thingymajig (I love that word, by the way). Cheers, my friend!

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  23. I'll bet Banjo appreciates those paths. This is the first winter for a long time that I haven't had to make a clearing for our pups to do their thing. What is your elevation out there Erin?

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    1. penbayman - Indeed he does, and without them, he refuses to leave the porch to do his duties. I'm sitting a bit below 8,000 ft. I can never remember precisely. ;)

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  24. Really enjoyed the story Erin.Maybe a lady version of Norman Maclean maybe?:-)

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    1. Monty - Many thanks for stopping by to read! As well as many more thanks for the compliment. Maclean is an author I admire completely!

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  25. How about guest readers?

    sgb

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    1. sgb - hmm. Miss Sue reading. Seems only fitting. ;-)

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  26. Erin I liked the story and I really liked hearing you read it.

    Dang, that's a lot of snow!

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    1. Mr. P. - Many thanks for reading and listening! Indeed, a lot of snow it is...and we've had 5 more inches since!

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  27. Your lovely voice was an great addition to your already excellent presentation. I have had a shovel as a dance partner many times too. I liked the email interaction with your mom. I also enjoyed your take on the technical aspects of small backcountry streams.

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    1. Herringbone - I always enjoy your feedback...can't thank you enough for that!

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  28. Having listened to you in person Iknow that this is a lower, quieter, register than your voice in normal conversation--- more intimate. But then, I remember that you laugh so readily, which changes everything. Keep this up please.

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    1. Hart - I will keep it up....and it was a delight to have a chat with you last night!

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  29. A story spoken has much more feeling and depth than a story written.

    A brilliant addition to a wonderful blog.

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    1. Tom - Many thanks for reading..or listening, as the case may be. I'm glad you liked the addition!

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  30. Erin,

    A disco ball, and morphing, that is why I read you. You demand more attention than a cursory perusal so I have not had the time to best explore your offerings. Anxious for your rod, but no so as much as you. Dry here, first shoots of my crocuses 1/26, now a plethora of flowers starting near our home. Stay warm up there.

    Best, Gregg

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    1. Gregg - Crocuses! I cannot imagine! ;) There is an icicle reaching from my roof to the deck, solid, right now, and it is 17 degrees. brrr. But a fire roars and hard cider is imbibed, and all is well and warm. Disco balls and morphing....gosh, I sound so random! But glad you enjoy it! :)

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  31. A ja myślałem, że to w Polsce jest dużo śniegu ! :O

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  32. Hang in there Erin! That Rod will be all the better when it's complete and a few snow beetles for the far end of the tippet will seem a little sweeter to use this summer with the memory!

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    1. Kevin - Ah, I've loved it in all of its stages. Which presently is over half wrapped. ;) And you're right, those beetles with now be used on a high country stream this summer, making more memories. Sweet stuff.

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  33. 41" :o !!!!!!!!! I feel silly with our 3", but I wouldn't mind the lock-in to read & tie flies. One thing I do like is the peacefulness that comes with the snow as it dampens/muffles the everyday sounds Evocative as always, and I like being read to, please continue. x

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    1. Witham - Ah, it all just matters what you're used to. 6 inches is beginning to feel like "just a dusting"...! Thanks so much for the kind words...and yes, I will keep reading! :)

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  34. Erin,

    My comment days ago didn't take, I'll blame sunspots. What an angelic voice to go with your superb writing. Very sweet, your almost finished rod, very happy for you and I approve your choices of finishings. Earlier I'd written other things but what more could I add? Well, you have snow, I have crocuses and daffodils tomorrow or the next day, that I'll say. Always enjoy what you share, thanks.

    Gregg

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    1. Gregg - For sure. My sister goes on and on about sunspots. They're powerful, and do strange things! Anyhow, thanks for the kind words, all around! And crocus and daffodils?! I cannot begin to imagine...flowers up at my house might begin popping up come the end of May! ;)

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  35. This belongs in Aesthetic Arrangements. What a faux pas!

    Gregg

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    1. Gregg...it's those sunspots again!!!

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