I woke with my eyes shut, stuck from the smoke of wildfires. In California this time, they say.
prelude I pack one thermos of coffee and one of soup. Trading in the
gatorade quarts of summer. Like swapping tank tops for woolen fingerless
gloves, Chacos for Wellingtons. It happens suddenly. Often, before
you’re quite ready (and so your toes are liable to get cold, year after
past mountainsides of John Deere green and yellow, Colorado’s autumn
reminds me of farm implements and the dealer’s lit sign on the edge of
our property growing up. Erica and I got permission from Farmer Hopp to
ride along that field and those terraces in the wintertime, once the
yearly rotation of soybeans or corn were harvested. It was our
playground, that field. Our wide open space -- where we learned and
laughed, made mistakes, got bucked off and climbed back on again.
Because really, you didn’t have a choice; you had to climb back on if
you wanted to get home and not be left behind.
ages the year. Each yellowed leaf reminding me that the two gray hairs
I’ve found this week are well earned, and can stay. They are my proof of
life, if you will -- that I’ve purchased, and often, I am spent. Yet
there will be another summer, another prime. Another time of blooming
flowers and grasshoppers and picnics in high meadows. But you don’t know
for sure when it will come. Maybe it will be another deep snowpack and
high runoff, and the lakes won’t open until the end of July.
Or maybe...maybe you won’t live to see it at all.
Nevertheless, it will come.
Autumn smells of death, like the nursing homes my mother and grandmother,
sister and I sang in when I was growing up (Erica and I begrudgingly --
why were we the
only weird family to do this, I wondered, as I tried to smile and hold
their old, cold hands). Singing those mornings of flying away -- to
lives nearly over. Souls halfway out the window, perhaps with shirttails
or pant cuffs stuck (And what were we to do about that?). But there was
still enough left to remember promises. And perhaps, that is why they
brown, like onions and garlic spicing my nose, smelling warm. Pine
needles rot back into soil and aspen leaves dot the path like gold
covered Wonka coins. I pick a few up, just to pretend.
Just to pretend.
Just to pretend I am still that child who believes it all true.
runs ahead and then back. Time and again. As good for his spirits as
mine. And I know I couldn’t bear to fish these high lakes without him.
He makes a skunking alright, because all he cares about is me and food,
and that he and I are still together at the end of the day (with some
leftover snacks being optimal).
We all should be more like dogs, I think. The world would be a better place.
I enter an old burn area, the wind picks up -- smelling of dozens upon
dozens of frying eggs. And bacon. A boy scout troop is camped out at the
edge of the willows, flags marking their territory, and elk bugling
calls are followed by peals of laughter. Whatever leader gave them that call is probably hated right now by the other adults -- like the
uncle that gives electronic noise-making toys at Christmastime.
pines were taken out by wildfire in 1978, and aspen have taken over.
The circle of life of things -- although the old poles are still
standing tall. It’s not a good sign that it’s already windy down here;
now I know what’s waiting for me up top. And when the morning sun glare
crests down, there is fresh snow on the ridge of the cirque and in its
lake is white capped when we reach it. And I change my sweat soaked
undershirt for a dry one, put on a capilene layer, fleece, and a hat.
Cupping the thermos cup-lid of coffee warms my hands enough to tie on a
fly. A small, black, soft-hackled spider.
hunkers in the willows and I see -- his eye patches are the color of a
late alpine autumn. Curious I’ve never noticed it before. You’re too farsighted, I scold myself, taking away from it what I know I should.
cutthroats swim who-knows-how-many-feet down below my feet, off the
steep shelf. Their gray backs move slowly, with lazy flashes of red. Not
in a hurry, going to who-knows-where. Obviously, there are a lot of
questions up at these lakes. There is a lot of wind.
And they, without mistake, often arrive at the same time. Coordinated
to drive us to madness, perhaps. Or to keep us going -- because you
don’t know when the next break will be. But you know there will be one.
It will last only a minute or two, you’ll miss it if you don’t pay
attention. So you have to always be ready, to always have your ear to
the wall, and your eye to the water. Rod strung up. When the break
comes, you put down the thermos of soup and you cast. Even if when it
comes you’re too tired from fighting your way through, you miss the high
as for those questions, the answers might indeed be blowin’ in the wind
as the old poet sang. But I beg to differ that they are not the
soothing lullaby, quivering in his voice. He’s unsure, too.
Because really, the answer is that life and wind will never end, and
seldom do they let up. They press us and bend us, until we resemble
something akin to apline krumholtz, blown bare in spots. Stunted in
others. All the while green and living on another side.
The answer blowing --- is that a calm might never come, and you might be stuck in the willows all day.
But then again, that’s alright. Because Banjo is there, too.
And he’s happy.