It was almost time for my daughter’s departure to Scotland where she would work on her graduate degree. We probably wouldn’t be seeing her again in person for a year or more, so we tried to make the best of our family hours together in Washington, D. C., of all places.
We were staying at my son’s apartment in Arlington. The day before Alyssa’s flight from Dulles International, we strolled around the National Mall and checked out several Smithsonian Institute museums. I hadn’t hiked through downtown Washington in years. We forged our way into Chinatown and lunched comfortably at a Chop’t Salads shop. That evening, my son, who knows the metro area as well as anyone, drove us to an Ethiopian restaurant that he and Catherine were familiar with. The African cuisine was spicy and delightful, to say the least. Occasionally I felt bursts of pepper flaming out of every pore. An hour later, I finally chilled with a tasty blend of frozen yogurts at 32 Below.
Next day, we said our bittersweet goodbyes to Alyssa and her friend Aaron. We were happy for Alyssa but she would be gone for many months. Aaron would help her get established in Glasgow before he, himself, would travel on to Wolverhampton for a short semester abroad. It seemed like a big transition for everyone involved.
After getting an angling license and additional permit for the Shenandoah National Park, we drove westward to scout the North Fork Moormans River where it tumbles from the Blue Ridge and collects behind the city reservoir. The Moormans is premium mountain water but was flowing far too low for comfort. Its rich concentration of native trout and other fishes was awaiting the arrival of autumn rain. I climbed beyond the boundary of the park and found the fish eager to slam a delicately presented Beetle. After catching and releasing my first Virginia brookie, I decided to call it quits until another visit in the fall or spring.
That evening and the showery morning of the following day, I fished for smallmouth on the lower watershed, Rivanna River, near Charlottesville. My Poppers (purchased from Albemarle Anglers) were a little cumbersome to cast on a three-weight line, but the bass and panfish found them tantalizing. It was a nice way to get refocused for the drive ahead.
My son had bought us tickets for a Blue Jays game in Baltimore that night. He shuttled us from Washington through some brutal metropolitan traffic, but the game itself was fun despite the fact that the ailing Jays took another beating.
It was time to declare a probability… Life… as we know it… is more than the act of fishing (isn’t it?)… There, I said it! But fishing can be the glue that binds the parts of one together. Angling in Virginia wasn’t bad. It was good enough to keep the hours interesting, to make me realize that, given optimal conditions, the outings could be excellent. It helped to keep my boundaries loose, horizons expanded. Just when life seemed to take wing with migration of the swallows, I got the sense that flight was not away from one’s existence. It was more than an escape. It was more like a movement from a known place into the heart of something new.