Monday, July 25, 2011

Highcountry Lakes Revisited (after I grew up).

I used to be a hiker. A few years ago, I hiked a lot -- the equivalent of a half marathon every weekend. Alone. Those who loved me worried, and once I was back I made the promised call or email to Nebraska, to let them (my mother) know I was safe. I didn't, however, tell them about the lightning, the bear scat, the ankle tweaks, the iffy trails, or the rock scramblings. Like Jay, I always figured that I'd die with my boots on. 

I didn't particularly like the hiking per se, but moving my legs has a way of moving my mind. Walking has a way of working things out. And that, I needed. At highcountry lakes before heading back down, I'd linger. Leaning on my backpack, or wading out to a boulder, I'd plop down, eat an apple, and watch the fishermen. Mine was the gaze of a child looking at the person they wanted to be -- to be like -- when they grew up. If any of those fishermen took note of the amount of time that I -- a young woman -- spent watching, they would either have been creeped out, or their egos would have swollen in size; like under-milked udders.

Every cast and every line silently thrown spoke of things I didn't understand, but desperately wanted to. I couldn't hear the reel's hiss, or the timbre of line through the guides. I also couldn't hear the fisherman's curses at snags and messy casts, or the sigh of satisfaction when every once in awhile, it all went right. There was no pocket hiker/fisherman dictionary for help with translation, but I knew that all those nuances -- the pause in the backcast, the speed of stripping in line, the changing of flies, the place he chose to stand -- they were all talking, telling me something of the persistence of grace. 

But perhaps it was pursuing the trout those days, for I never saw grace given to the fisherman.

Now, I remember a Jim Harrison poem, and a line about the marriage of fisherman and fish, "swimming up and down stream...twisting." The current keeping them together, without rings -- the eddies, the dry years, the runoff, and the reminder that it's always dangerous, stepping in. There is always that possibility that you'll get swept away. Twisted. And sometimes, that's what you want. What you need...
....to let go. 


Explore. It's ok. Haul out line as far as you can, and let it sink deep, anchoring you in this language you're beginning to understand.

For almost six months now, I've wanted to go back to each one of these lakes I once hiked to alone. Only this time, accompanied by a fly rod and Banjo, or Jay, or even better both. And this time, I would be that fisherman I wanted to be when I grew up.

So last Friday, I hiked into the highcountry with a rod tube on my back and Banjo by my side. On Sunday, hiking to another lake, Jay would be there.

I've grown up. I'm a fisherman.

34 comments:

  1. Yay. :) Glad you've got dear Banjo and Jay. It's great to feel "together" with others. (I just need a dog! :) )

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  2. It's good to know what you want to be when you grow up... and what a feeling of achievement when you actually get there.
    Great post.

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  3. thanks to you, i know have images of mens heads bulging with pride squirting milk out of their head nipples. great story as always.

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  4. You sure are a fisherman... Now I want to be a hiker, too. Nice post.

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  5. Becoming a fisherman is just the first step Erin, the journey is even better.

    And more pictures of Banjo please :-)

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  6. There will be many more hikes, and wonderful waters to fish.

    And perhaps many more little jewels, like the one you cradle.

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  7. So many jewels in this one...observation,growth.understanding....Harrison's poetry...your style and choice of words...''the timbre of the line through the guides"...."the persistence of grace"....this thing is loaded....you are on fire

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  8. Ern, He he...I love the "under milked udders" reference. Pulling out some of your childhood memories of daily milking our crazy goat herd eh.

    Ivan,funny you would picture the milk squirting out of men's ears...A goat udder left too long does indeed randomly squirt as the does struggle to walk about. Lucky barn cats!

    Oh and Erin, thank you for those calls and emails. <3 sbg

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  9. Beam me up Scotty to those high lakes.

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  10. I too watched water and fisherman for years before I actually got bitten by the bug. Far too long in coming though perhaps it was a journey I had to go upon in order to arrive here.

    Thx for comparing the male ego to an under milked udder. I'll be working that out with my therapist for the next few years.

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  11. e.block - :) I miss you.

    Val - I so adore how you add 'dear' to names...and yes, you definitely need a dog. You could talk Billy into a Corgi, I'm sure!

    Jay - Indeed...like the final crest of a cirque...thanks!

    Ivan - Yes! That is totally what I was going for! ;)

    Jim - Hiking gets you to beautiful places...I'm still a hiker. My friend has a bumper sticker that reads "Hikers Do It For The View" -- but I guess mine would be "Hikers Do It For The Fish"....!

    Dave - Oh yes, I'm enjoying the journey, and hope it's a long one. I promise, more Banjo pictures to come!

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  12. Brk Trt - That was my first Brookie, and I aim to cradle many more...

    Herringbone - Many thanks, my poet friend. And as I'm sure you know, being on fire is something akin to exciting exhaustion...

    sgb - Made me fearful of breastfeeding...scarred me for life, those goat udders did. I just remember how hard and gorged they would get. ooouch. You'll be adventuring with me soon. :)

    Flyfishermanrichard - Ah, if only there was a 'beam' up hundreds of feet of elevation to those lakes. Oh, and I made sure to take note of the wildflowers and look them up when I got back home, per your wonderful post. Thanks!

    Steve - Sometimes, I just don't understand why journeys have to be so long....the destination so damned long in coming..."it's all about the journey" my mother tells me. Oh, and let me know how it goes with your therapist. ;)

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  13. Never grow up Erin. Who will grace us with their child like wonder of all things wild?

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  14. Wow, that lake looks beautiful, heaven in fact! Another insightful post.

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  15. John - Oh, I don't think you have to worry about me ever truly growing up!

    Martin - It was absolutely divine. Many thanks!

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  16. Mat - 'Like' thanks, man! :)

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  17. People who fish never really "grow up" Erin :)

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  18. Always growing, always learning and, as always, a beautiful post.

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  19. "didn't particularly like the hiking per se, but moving my legs has a way of moving my mind. Walking has a way of working things out. And that, I needed." Awesome. I look forward to your posts like a kid on Christmas morning. My wife thinks I have a blog crush.

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  20. Grow up? I'm 63 and still trying to decide what I'll be when I grow up. Bumper sticker on a Mini Minor motor car, "When I grow up I want to be a beer truck," now that's what I call knowing your mind.

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  21. Tom - Perhaps that is why I fit in with fishermen? :)

    Russell - Means one is alive, eh? Many thanks for reading and the comment!

    Kev2380 - Well! Compared to Christmas morning? Dang! And I'm happy to be your blog crush! :) Thank you so much for your comments...they truly make my day!

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  22. Phillip - That is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Fishermen never grow up...so perhaps we never really have to decide? Ah, I wish I had as much assuredness as that Mini!

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  23. I agree with John - never grow up, the world is a far more wonderful place that way.

    Also, I don't think it's what you wanted to be as much as who you already were.

    You've grown into yourself, and that's a good thing.

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  24. Erin, I have never designated many heroes in my life, but I have to say that you are my hero for your love of life and living...and fishing...and writing. Keep on keeping on.

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  25. Colorado Angler - I hadn't thought of it that way...but I think you're right, I've always been a fisherman. Just had to grow into its realization. Thank you!

    Cofisher - Wow. Now YOU have left me speechless. And I'm not just being polite. :)

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  26. Here's to many more weekends filled with hiking high country lakes from your past with good friends (and banjo). With the situation changed now , every once in a while you might look over your shoulder and see who's watching you , mesmerized by the same actions that once caught your eye......Jeff

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  27. Grow on up but don't grow out of this blog.

    As for dying with boots on, make mine wading.

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  28. Jeff - Cheers! To high country lakes! I thought about that while I was casting...groups of hikers, eating their "summit snacks" sat and watched me...it's interesting being on the other side...

    DarrellKuni - Good point on the boots. I suppose I should switch my dying footwear preference, having "grown up." And don't worry, I don't know that I'll ever be able to grow out of writing. Even if I want to. Thanks for wanting me to stick around. :)

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  29. This is all amazing to me. I've known Erin for a while now as a talented & sensitive musician, & a nature lover. We found the common ground of writing later on. Erin, you've found a deep place as a fisherman, obviously rich in meaning & worthy of exploration. Reading your writings, combined with pictures, is such beauty that it feels worlds away; yet is in the palm of the hand and the crook of the heart!

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  30. Dave - I believe saw the future when you donned me "Puddleglum." Twas a fisherman with a funny hat, no? You're always an encouragement, my friend!

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  31. Those lakes are amazing and filled to the brim with fish. I'm headed further north this weekend... but shh... There is nothing like the feeling of remembering the scene when you get back to the city caged in asphalt and steel.

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