The skies can’t keep their secret!/ They tell it to the hills–/ The hills just tell the orchards–/ And they the daffodils!… (from Emily Dickenson).
There’s nothing more resplendent this wide morning than a singing prairie warbler on the hill. There’s no prairie on this great hill, only the clusters of young emerging trees, the ten to twenty-foot trees that prairie warblers need.
The zi-zi-ZI notes, rapidly ascending, are almost imperceptible among the background calls of sparrows, finches and other warblers. The prairie is a small bird with an olive back and streaked yellow underside. It’s careless of a watcher with his eyes and ears wide open. It forages deeply in the summer shrubs. The prairie’s wing-bars and tail-wagging come at me as if from the hillside– from a steep hill in the mind.
From Emily Dickenson… To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,–/ One clover and a bee,/ And revery./ The revery alone will do/ If bees are few.
So, what is out there waits for no one. It engages us, if and when we take the time to care. There is poetry in it, nudging and turning with a flourish. It is wild and has a voice that fills the air.
Blossom of the black-eyed Susan. Black raspberries in the hand. Flat rocks overturned
and flung aside by a hungry bear. The night eyes of a white-tailed deer with velvet horns. A red fox running with a small black woodchuck in its jaws. And best, for me– the dark-furred fisher, porcupine-eater, loping across the gravel road!
What is out there holds its place against the darkness. Simple speech confronts the babble of our world. I listen and write what I hear and feel. No theory now, and no experiment. “Unlimited eventfulness” (Kenneth Rexroth) comes to mind.
My long-awaited fly rod comes to mind. It came to me in the mail, from an event two years ago when I placed an order for the rod. No, I won’t catch more fish because of this new rod. But it’s a thing of beauty built from scratch– from bamboo culm, from original taper tested on the stream, from hardware, even, made by one man in a southern shop.
There’ll be no more of them. Not for me. Really! And I may need to sell off other rods to now afford my angling habit, but this one is a joy to cast. It’s my statement of support for the tradition of fly-fishing, for the beauty of craftsmanship (you might not believe how many hours of skilled workmanship go into the construction of a custom rod), and for my faith in the ways of art and nature.
The weaver of life weaves his tapestry across the hill. I try to follow, and catch mere glimpses of his work. I take a pen to paper, or I run my fingertips across the waiting keyboard. If my meanings come up short, oh well, at least I’ve tried, and maybe I should just go fishing. Maybe then I’ll do better, and I can thank that newly varnished instrument of mine.
One night I just go fishing on the wide Conhocton. Tim D. leads the way across the
restless river as the fireflies appear and a startled heron squawks repeatedly and raises several hairs along my neck. The last glow of sunset fades from the north. An hour later all I see is a dim reflection from my friend’s headlamp as he works to free a tangle from his line.
The river tumbles at my feet and I imagine its dirge for a brown trout’s unexplained burial in the shallows, for a dead deer in the bushes and the possibility of zombie shufflings in the dark.
I catch a good brown on a drifted fly and free the hook by feel alone. I can barely see the fish in my hands.
Another story comes to life about the hills and valleys and the streams and rivers of our time. The tales we bring are spirited and, if we’re lucky, we’ll cut through the barriers between us, like an old knife newly honed!
I think of the prairie warbler and the fisher and the bear and the trout and all the rest. And then, with Emily, I say …In the name of the bee/ And of the butterfly/ And of the breeze, amen!