Phoenix Run

I hadn’t fished the stream in 25 years or more. I found myself returning to it when the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnumbness that resulted from the weekend news transformed into anger, sympathy and sadness. Maybe my visit to the stream was due to something in the name, Phoenix Run. I’ve always had an interest in names, especially with regard to geographical features.

The feelings arose from more than just the news from Paris, as horrific as that was. My rickety plate of mindfulness was also set ajar by tragedies of similar degree in other parts of the world, from places farther from the care of social media and western consciousness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“There’s another 9/11 coming,” said the GOP’s Lindsey Graham.

“They’ll be bombing us here before we know it,” said a store clerk in Anytown, USA. “A Christian would never do what they just did.”

Oh, really now, responded the watery form of Phoenix Run (assuming that I could project my voice into an unassuming creek).

First of all, let’s terrify the public, Mr. Bigwhig. That way, it will listen carefully while you beat the drums of war. And secondly, Mr. and Mrs. UberClerk, you might be right about the bombing, or you might be wrong. When you say, a Christian wouldn’t do what has been done, I’ll agree with you that a good one wouldn’t do it, but you should read a little history (think Crusades or the conquest of native cultures), or stop trying to sound completely stupid.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No, the wild stream I went fishing in didn’t spit in the face of idiocy and evil. In fact, it took no sides at all. It favored no religion or political agenda, no one theory or belief. The stream was simply there. Cold and flowing bank to bank, clear and tumbling toward the distant bay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was there to embrace me if I wanted it to care. It was there to reject me if I got in its way. It was always changing with the face of beauty. It ignored my weaknesses and absence. It was wild, and still produced nice trout on a beadhead nymph.

The stream comforted and lightened the load and reinforced my care. To stand in its waters was like hearing of the guy who towed a grand piano with a bicycle to the site of Paris death and mayhem. The musician couldn’t raise the dead or heal the injured, but his playing helped to soothe the pain a bit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Casting in its waters was like reading Teanderthal’s analogy on Facebook:

“Blaming all Muslims for the terrorists is like blaming all musicians for Ted Nugent.”

Even better, because the only sides taken by a trout stream are its earthen banks, and the call of distant shores.

*     *     *

P.S., If you’re feeling musically adventurous, you might give a listen to “Ashes are Burning,” by Renaissance. I think of the song when I think of the stream’s name, Phoenix Run. I’m moderately intrigued by Annie Haslam’s critically acclaimed voice, but for me the song gets really interesting at about 7:18. A minute later, the solo by Wishbone Ash guitarist, Andy Powell, takes the piece to its haunting conclusion and always seems to burn the shirt right off my back.


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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28 Responses to Phoenix Run

  1. Anonymous says:


    “Blaming all Muslims for the terrorists is like blaming all musicians for Ted Nugent.”

    Not all Muslim are terrorists, but all tecent terrorists are Muslim. Ted Nugent never killed anybody.

  2. plaidcamper says:

    Well said, Walt. The lack of a human agenda out in the wild is some of what draws us there. Happy to read the phrase about your reinforced care – I liked that. Thoughtfulness and reaching for positive responses…you have to try!

    • Thank you, Plaid. I like to think that the wild helps to settle the bloodstream, filtering out some of the sediment loosened and set afloat by acts of madness. Entering it is not an escape, in my opinion, but a way to get that “reinforced care” necessary for us to keep on trying.

  3. Doug says:

    Right on bro. Right on to the very last point.

  4. Doug says:

    Oh, and Renaissance? Always one of my favorites.

    • Doug,
      Really pleased that you’ve not only heard of them, but include Renaissance among your favorites. They go back to a time of great musical and artistic creativity, and I’d say this song is my favorite among their pieces that I’ve heard so far. Thanks for commenting!

      • Doug says:

        Another band from that era that I feel is still relevant is a little known band called, It’s A Beautiful Day. I was listening to these bands when very few people could say, yeah, I’ve heard of them. White Bird by IABD and David LaFlamme’s song writing skills were what drew me to this stuff. That stuff you’d be hard pressed to find long time fans of. I still have them. May be on CD, but they are still a big part of music appreciation for me.

  5. Mike says:

    Hey Walt,

    “The only sides it takes are its banks”.


    Fish on, friend. Well put. Very well put.

  6. Hey Mike,
    Your friend in angling says he’s glad to hear from you again! Thanks, and fish on, too!

  7. Brent says:

    Re: “Anonymous” above: By this “logic,” all the recent mass shooters at schools and other campuses must be Muslim too. Nope, they definitely weren’t spoiled, disaffected white suburban kids.

    I loved the post. You’ve taken something harrowing, that I haven’t even been able to process yet in longer-form writing, and you’ve run it through your own form of catharsis. Glad you got time on the water to reflect on some of the things that make life beautiful, more often than not. You’ll have to let me know where Phoenix Run is located, when you visit if you’d rather not share it publicly.

    • Anonymous says:

      What your missing is the school shootings had nothing to do with terrorism. They were not trying to to convert them world to Islam.

      • It has everything to do with terrorism. If the victims had any moments of consciousness before their deaths, they were terrified. They were being converted to the dead. As for the Paris event, the victims were not intended for conversion to Islam. They were intended to be dead.

  8. Yeah, exactly Brent. Those white suburban shooters must’ve been in training for you-know-what. Thanks for the kind words and all. Phoenix Run is an overlooked trout stream feeding the upper Pine Creek watershed, above the gorge. Really off the beaten track, the way I like it. Looking forward to the coming visit!

  9. I’m going to keep my opinions to myself and just say that I fully comprehend what you’re saying and agree. I love the water for it’s healing powers.

  10. Bank to bank, appreciate your comment, as I do ALL comments made on RR, but the comprehension helps me run the course. Thanks Howard.

  11. Doug,
    Thanks for mentioning It’s a Beautiful Day. I actually mentioned that band and its iconic song “White Bird” in an early post on Rivertop Rambles, and I’m pleased to hear of the band’s influence on your early day listening habits. I, too, have owned a vinyl copy of their first album and may still have it someplace. I recommend the album and/or the song “White Bird” to anyone interested in hearing an excellent California outfit featuring some classic violin. Great stuff.

  12. Bob Stanton says:

    Amen, Walt, amen.

  13. loydtruss says:

    I hate to think what this world and the U.S. will be like when my grandchildren becomes adult. The Phoenix Run is a gorgeous stream, with some colorful brook trout as well. Thanks for sharing

  14. Gramps Mel says:

    Walt, a little late getting here to comment, but, I am here. I needed to read this today to help me with some perspective. It was comforting to read and know that we can find our peace is where we find it. Standing in any stream with the water rushing around our legs and passing is therapeutic.

  15. Salla says:

    Well said! I was in London in 2005 when the bombings happened. In Paris I have been to all those places, except for the football stadium. And still I’m way more nervous about going to movie theater in Colorado, having a husband who will at some point at his career work in a high school or one of us will just happen to be in a wrong place at the wrong time. We are way more likely to be killed by domestic terrorists.

    And yes to finding peace from the nature!

    • Salla,
      Thank you for the comment!
      You are right, we’re probably more at risk from domestic attacks than from abroad, though I wish the problem and the fear of it would all just dissipate, as if by magic. But people are people and we’ve got to face each other and talk it out, or there’s no hope at all. Wild nature has the final say.

  16. marymaryone says:

    Going out into the wild, away from the act that “humans” inflict upon each other certainly helps ease the anger. Great post

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