Monday, November 19, 2012

Pool by Pool

Light comes slowly in a canyon, here at the bottom. They’re a reminder, Gierach writes, of the human condition. They’re a reminder of our coldness, our stubbornness, and yet in the end our ability to carry on although we may be in the lowest, harshest, bitterest place possible.

Because still here, there is life.  

There is water and there are willows, and raspberries in the summertime. 

David Goodrich , Jay, and I drive north – to another canyon. We’re in no hurry. Because remember, light comes slowly. As if everything and everyone’s pulse calms a bit come wintertime. Gets sluggish, like oil and lube that’s sat overnight in many-degrees-below-zero. That’s how it feels, my blood, for an entire six months, and how it has felt for the past three; thick and reticent, reticent to begin on what it knows it must.

There is no rush though, there is no pressure – to beat crowds or thunderstorms -- to make early morning hatches. We rig midges and nymphs and I dig out an indicator for the first time this season. A small white thingamabobber, reminding me of Whatchamacallit's --bought at a 7-11 on Leavenworth, at the bottom of The Big Hill, with pocket change from $0.05 can returns. Ten-speeded cruising in the neverending days of childhood. Neverending, like that hill on the way back home. 

And we all add layers, gloves, and hats. Knee-high wool socks for good measure.

Dropping in, we stagger out -- pool by pool. That’s how you fish a winter river, skipping over the pockets and runs you’d hit during the summertime. Now the trout are held up in the deep places, bracing for the weather to turn. Now it’s one thing at a time, baby-step by baby-step, believing it all worthwhile (or not, but even so there’s no place to go but on. So embrace the pointlessness of it all, I'm told, embrace it. Make it your own. And somehow through that process, something worthy does in fact, evolve): pool by pool, bird by bird…word by word, that’s how you have a conversation, give a speech, write a book. None of which I’m very good at doing, especially presently: leaving all behind except one thing. Just one thing. That's what I've got to figure  out. Concentrating, studying, what’s she up to today?  My mind wanders and I end up with riffles, American Dippers, and any and all similes for cold running races in my head.

The Dippers win, and I watch them bathe for a while. They scold – you’re kinda in our pool, lady. They've got attitude. But I don't move (so I suppose I have something verging that, too).

They keep polar-plunging anyway.

And light hits the pine tops at last.

And then a large pool below a bridge where we all migrate: basking in the sun like reptiles on rocks. Following the sunspots through the afternoon – like a cat on a living room floor -- there are midge hatches and rainbows and browns enough. Laughter and stories among good friends; split shot and curses occasionally, too.

There are all of these things. And there is more…much...

…until light takes its leave as slowly and quietly as it came, reminding me of where I am. Here, in this low place. At the bottom of something majestic from far away. Something beautiful...enough it can make me cry. And does. Yet it's cold and dark here, up close. I can't feel my feet, but I hear Jay and David stomping theirs on the bank. 

I am not alone.

The human condition.

And as goodbyes glow in headlights, we all promise – let’s do it again soon. Because at least I know, I'll need the reminder.