Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Periphery

My mother taught me to always be observant of my surroundings. Especially once my sister and I started driving up to the big city Omaha by ourselves, she reminded us before every trip up the dirt driveway to lock our doors when driving and walk to the car with keys in hand -- one between index and middle finger -- “a good weapon” she’d say. And walk with authority -- walk as someone who knows where they are and where they are going. Even, if you don’t, she told us, because by convincing someone else, often times you convince yourself in the process.

I suppose that’s actually gotten my sister and I through a lot in life -- walking with authority. Through a lot and somewhere, too -- just walking on. And looking off to the sides, into our periphery -- which can start making you feel all googly-eyed and somewhat dizzy until you get used to it. But then once you do, you can’t stop. Perhaps that’s why we all eventually needed glasses.  

And when I’m out on a trail all alone, which I often am, I still walk that way out of a matter of respect for my mom, because I know she worries about me still (although more about lions and bears now than men). Briskly and looking ahead. With authority. Like I know where I’m going -- and these days I’d like to think that’s a lot closer to being true than it once was. But in all honesty, probably not much.

Come to think of it that might be why I’m always asked for directions. Even in the backcountry...“Excuse me, is this the such-and-such trail?”...“Wouldn’t happen to have a map on hand....would you?” I always do know and always do “happen to have” a map -- and always do fear for the safety of these people who probably shouldn’t be out in the backcountry, especially all grouped together. But that whole birds-of-a-feather thing, you know. Works kind of like buttered toast.

My mother also taught us that walks and hikes are not just for the moving of legs. They are to observe. Bird-watching, flower-identifying, scat-tracking. Sometimes who ate whom and when. The why is usually quite obvious. I believe her educational precept to be “inquiring minds want to know” -- and ours were made to. Where the waterways are and the draws -- where will the deer come down to drink at dusk. Where are the deadwoods for woodpeckers; berries for birds and fox, and good treetops for rookeries. And where the great horned owl lived that she’d call overhead as we stood, wondering where she learned all these things. 


If she was trying to impress us, it worked.

Thus long before I came to be a fly fisherman I made an observance of things, if only out of habit -- of creeks and streams, rivers and lakes. And so I’ve known more about where good waters and trout lie than I thought I did, if only through periphery. They’ve always been waiting there. Just waiting, for me to take up a rod. 


So I knew exactly where to go this past week when Jay and his father John were looking for a small stream. For a smaller group that day -- only the three of us (plus Banjo, of course). A thin, wiry bit, with lots of pockets, too. A place hard to get to and even harder to leave. A place to wet-wade and where -- like alcohol to memories -- the water would numb your feet into forgetting about the horsefly bites you’d gotten at a bass pond two days before. A place where the fishing would more than make up for a lost pair of sunglasses and where hummingbirds looked normal-sized hovering over the stream. A place where there would be brook trout rising to dries in pockets under willows, with an open meadow nearby where we could eat cheese and salami.

That’s all that was asked.

And yes.  


Yes, I said, I knew a place that would have all of these things.

And I’d like to think that if I was trying to impress them, it worked.


52 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. No doubt you impressed Jay and his dad as much as we are every so often (actually, always) with such descriptive writing.

      Delete
    2. Celery - I would! It pays off to have been a hiker in a previous life!

      Delete
    3. Howard - Thank you! 'Tis not the goal, but a very pleasant side effect. ;)

      Delete
    4. previous life? I think you are still hiking now... just with more gear & something to do when you get there! :)

      Delete
    5. Celery - Ha! Yes...that's about right. ;-)

      Delete
  2. A place hard to get to and even harder to leave.... so often is the case.
    BKB

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well that would certainly impress me!
    :)
    Regular Rod

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Regular Rod - Indeed! I think this little stream would have been right up your alley. Perfect for bamboo and dry flies.

      Delete
  4. This is one of your best yet Erin, a perfectly bound twist of tales and recollection with a terrific punch line - brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave - My goodness....thank you!

      Delete
  5. Glad you listened and still practice walking with "purpose"...it will always serve you well. Journey on and don't forget to wear red.

    Mama

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sgb - I am always listening..."big ears" you know. ;) And red for the journey...walking on.

      Delete
  6. "And walk with authority -- walk as someone who knows where they are and where they are going. Even, if you don’t, she told us, because by convincing someone else, often times you convince yourself in the process." So true Mama Block.

    Nicely done Erin! I'm sure Jay and his dad were impressed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. P. - Mama Block is a wise woman! And thanks for reading, as always, Jim!

      Delete
  7. Erin, your the best.
    Small streams, few anglers, and Banjo.
    That photo of Jay fishing that creek is a classic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brk Trt - Thank you! The individuals that day could not be beat. A good group. And the rod was perfect for the setting...Jay asked repeatedly for turns!

      Delete
  8. Super bit of writing...impresses me even more than your general awsomeness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jay - Thank you...for keeping me going.

      Delete
  9. I would have thought that it would have been impossible for John or Jay to be more impressed by you, but that day took the cake! It seems that in some ways your mother is a female version of John and by descent, Jay. So much of what you were taught echoes what I learned many years ago when I first ventured into the American wilds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hart - That's an interesting observation, and I agree with you!

      Delete
  10. "and these days I’d like to think that’s a lot closer to being true than it once was. But in all honesty, probably not much"

    sometimes it's just nice to know what you're doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sanders - It is...although those "times" don't come around nearly enough. ;)

      Delete
  11. It is always good too look around you when on the river/pond, you see and learn so much, fishing is never just about the fish in my book.

    A superb post as ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom - Your book is mine...if it was just about the fish, I don't think I'd fish. ;) Sounds confusing, but you know!

      Delete
  12. Great post, Erin. We learn without knowing we're learning, don't we? And then, I suppose, we can teach without really trying, by just living the way that feels right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emily - We do! You're so very right on teaching and learning, both...

      Delete
  13. as always Erin, a wonderful post...I've enjoyed reading your posts these last months and I am always able to take something interesting away from them...thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve - And I'm so very glad you've been reading...thank you!

      Delete
  14. Erin, I never have a map... I'm sorry. Another awesome post! I've always enjoyed the journey your writing takes me on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. backcountryfishnerd - Well, I have every faith you know where you're going! And thanks for always coming along...

      Delete
  15. Great blog Erin. For someone not knowing where their going you sure
    manage to convince a few to follow you, just brilliant!
    'To walk and not see the woods for the trees' as my grandpa used to paraphrase, I advise, cover your ears.
    I'm sure you are not even trying to, but sure impressed me too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Richard - It's all in the presentation! And your Grandpa sounds like a wise man. Thank you for reading, as always!

      Delete
  16. Just now reading Gierach's Fly Fishing Small Streams. I think HE'D be impressed. A "thin, wiry bit," "hard to get to and even harder to leave"--well said.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim - I love that book. And I hope he would be! Thank you so much as always for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

      Delete
  17. Very nice Erin,

    It's my chore/choice to educate my boys and now my grand kids, my wife will say, ask your Dad, or ask Grandpa. And I know things largely because of my mentor Father and my unending love of reading, all things natural, and thanks to Father again, of fishing, particularly fly fishing, as well as back packing, and he taught us to read a map, being a military man. Though we may not have a shrine we know who are the ancestors who gave us knowledge and revere them. Your Grandmother is so wise.

    Gregg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gregg - "Though we may not have a shrine we know who are the ancestors who gave us knowledge and revere them." What a statement! And how very true.

      Delete
  18. That is, your mother, excuse the mistake. Mother so wise!

    Gregg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gregg - Well...they both are! So accurate either way. ;-)

      Delete
  19. Great motherly advice. Watch out for those Omahavians.....you never know what they're capable of. I never thought Omaha was worth worrying about, but Council-tucky??? Watch out for that place!

    I always thought Steve Martin had the best advice for not getting mugged. It was something like this "First, when you go on the street, wet your pants. Then grab a shopping cart and fill it with grabage. People won't mug you if they think you're crazy. But if you don't want to get that involved, at the point when someone is taking your money just throw up on it."

    Okay, wisely held keys and looking tough does seem better. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rhythm Rider - Ha! I'm in complete agreement over Council-tucky! And Steve Martin, too! You've got to out-crazy the crazies. For example, sitting in public transit, talking softly to yourself...gets you a seat to yourself. I may or may not have ever done that. ;)

      Delete
  20. I've found speaking with authority works in the same manner - for both the listener and the speaker. Sweet piece.

    ReplyDelete
  21. During our very first conversation, you said "I just opened a can of spay paint with an ax" ... I knew that day you walked with authority. I love multi generational purpose .. you listened, and now you teach by example! So proud of you Erin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim - Ha! Yes, I remember that now. Thanks as always, Jim!

      Delete
  22. I've been away for awhile from your blog Erin. But boy is it great to back reading your exceptional writings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. penbayman - Glad you found your way back! Your taking the time to read is much appreciated!

      Delete
  23. Erin, you have explained something that I have always wondered about. When you wrote that "Come to think of it that might be why I’m always asked for directions," I immediately thought of people over the years asking me where to go in the Smokies. I guess there is something about the familiarity of your local waters that lends itself to confidence and fitting in with your surroundings and people definitely notice. Great piece of writing as always!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David - We must wear the confidence in and love of our surroundings on our sleeves. A good trait, methinks.

      Delete