Sunday, January 12, 2014

What is Built (Fall 2013 Recap)

I think back to a time, not so long ago, when the ice hadn't come yet. We smelled it in the air, we whiffed the frost; we knew it was coming, as surely our bones did. Nothing can prevent the Winter from descending with its own pack of blessings, not even wishful thinking.

Imagination alone can do something about it. Because without this most perfect of tools, we cannot properly anthropomorphosise the world around us; we cannot imbue the frozen trees with the white scintillation of religion or the glittering promise of gifts beneath the one that stands before the hearth; we wouldn't build back yard rinks, put skates on our feet and teach our children this alternative to flight; without imagination, it all turns to a gray and white, meaningless waste. A long, glum, pointless vigil for Spring.

But imagination has this other side, that it can enliven what we recall. It can paint memories with new colour, breathe into it the life of dreams; as indeed must all our enchanted memories be in the kaleidoscopic picture-book re-forming that each one of us weaves, in the privacy and mystery of our own
minds, and to just that pitch and brightness that we desire. It is a masterwork that none of us is ever quite finished with. The plans may change, the brush stroke depictions may lead in new directions, but each tomorrow promises a new brick, a new stroke, a new colour - and looking back over what we have built and conceived serves only to spur us forward.

Far from being merely artful, it is also a mechanism that can help us stand when we swoon. When we walk and function automatically, like machines - and our hearts aren't in it, or when we've suffered some blow or setback that shakes some part of us; and maybe even causes some of the past colours to fail, shimmer and wink out. Then is the long-standing, the half-growing half-constructed dream-tree of remembrance of our imaginations, most at our service. Like Faith, its boughs, its walls and the lights and photos with which we ourselves once decorated it; these lights guide us steadily along, until, someday, slowly, a new dusk of hope paints itself on the purposefulness of our every new day. 

So please indulge me as I regale myself with memory. I scroll back down to the colours of November, when the trees were newly bare and the grass had freshly turned to gold; it is the lovers' month for steelheaders, as those of us know who do. Then is it most likely that we will meet with our dearest opponent, the scintillating mystifying acrobat which (in my case) just because it flew out of the water, landed on a tree stump, flipped back into the water and broke the line - just once, but the first time - keeps us so enthralled that we will travel untold miles or wait even years to find the perfect time or place, where again the electrifying combat can take place. 

November; late November, with a sprig of Oliver, a goodly serving of Bill and of Fidel, and a heavy portion of Mike - only to find the Salmon river over-anxious and her fish largely unwilling to engage. Oliver did alright, for the morning before having to leave us, and Fidel wrangled a pair of smaller fish; but Mike and Bill caught nothing - and all I got was water in my waders and a dead camera, courtesy of a phantom sandbank on the bottom - which somehow turned into a hole when I stepped on it. We abandoned the Salmon and drove all around, looking for fish; and one stream that Mike and Bill spurned, served me two good fish - and the promise of a finer tomorrow.

And a fine tomorrow it did bring, indeed. We wasted little time getting there
in the morning; Fidel and I. For Mike and Bill, other waters beckoned and other pizzerias doubtlessly with clientele of greater alacrity than the night before. Fidel and I are not well acquainted with Pulaski (were... we are now) but we hate to inconvenience the fine cuisiniers; who were however quite gracious. 

Regardless, it being all water under the bridge, this is exactly where we headed and where Fidel ignited the waters with almost unholy precision. I flossed the river and made sure it was clean, but no piscatorial chunks of any kind came up for me. That came later, downriver and up, in runs and pools that we found and dredged most of the day. I'm older now, I guess, and I reach a point where I am satiated much sooner than when I was young. In the afternoon, I watched as Fidel continued his success in waters that were much too shallow and "pockety" for my taste. He gladly took the lead, and by the end of the day our combined tally was a good 30 fish landed, and ... we lost count of how many more were missed. I put Fidel's tally at 17. He can correct me if I'm wrong.

A few short days afterward, Winter set in. The brooks and creeks that
neighbor my home froze up quickly, locking away their precious silver ingots - seemingly for rediscovery only in the Spring; but by the beginning of December, a quick thaw turned the corner, and it was time that Oliver and I return to the Salmon for another perhaps final try at its ever-promising bounty. In an irony that I don't fail to recognize, and even savour to a certain extent, the site of Fidel's and my previous success was the opposite of what it had been. High, muddy, and harboring high grassy banks that ruthlessly and treacherously promised solid footholds - only to withdraw them, presenting gaping depths that chomped our gait, throwing Oliver more than once into the stream - the river held its fish mostly in reserve. We managed a few, but in general they were dark, tired, already beaten. Beautiful to look upon, as always; but not the bright, fresh, silver battlers we were seeking. 

We found some of those later, and in an unfortunate dovetail, I did all the catching while Oliver graciously and very kindly did most of the watching and pointing - "cast there; a little further out; just there; you got it, etc..." Fate, Luck, Nature, all three can be volatile. You will have their curse one day, then their blessings; and sometimes (often times) their indifference. All three seemed to curse Oliver for a while, as all his equipment got wet, and even his camera got into a little too much moisture, and then when true chromers were finally available they were all allotted to me. Mother Nature, though, did take some pity on him, and a few sips of Southern Comfort and brandy, followed by aromatic, warm clouds of tobacco seemed at least a consolation of some sort. At the very least, these things also meant that we were fishing together and sharing the day; its defeats and its successes. 

Another bright spackle of paint, or a beam, a strut to hold up a wall or an arch; something to look back on with delight, now, next week, in ten years from now. Something to hold us up, or raise us, when we will need it; or just something to look back on that brings a smile. Something warm to take with me, as the stream of days flows on relentlessly, on.