A Light in the Forest

Leaving behind the holiday parties and the jingly shopping marathons, I traveled to the Pennsylvania forest. The unusual December warmth and overcast sky contributed to a feeling of relief and abandon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

En route I passed a bald eagle perching near a foggy marsh. I slowed to a stop as a ruffed grouse strutted on the pavement till a car honk sent it on its way. On foot, I entered a roadless valley with a trout stream wending through the Pine Creek headwaters.

Ah, no noise, no manufactured color. But in dark December, light and color is appreciated. Where will light and color come from in the deep woods underneath a leaden sky?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps the brook trout would cooperate. Maybe the frogs in the 50 degree water, maybe the bankside ferns and grasses would contribute to a sense of soul rejuvenation… And, of course, they did.

I found that the best way to accomplish such a hook up on a day like this was to cast a nymph at the end of a 4-weight line and 7-foot tapered leader. The small brook trout would take the fly, struggle frantically then make a brief appearance at my hand before release.

The farther I climbed along the small, wild stream, the more involved I became, the greater my bond with what the season had to offer: light and color for the eye that seeks it. Peace of mind.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Soon the Winter Solstice would be here. Soon the subtle reasons for the holidays would become apparent. They would be there in the traces of light and color growing stronger in our senses, no matter what beliefs we hold, no matter the religion (or absence of religion) we adhere to.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peace of mind.

Rare Bird. Crystalline rock gem.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A genuine, haunting organ and guitar riff.

Vocals clear and unadorned.



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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14 Responses to A Light in the Forest

  1. plaidcamper says:

    The light and colours you uncovered out in the woods are lovely. Subtle and muted. Thanks for sharing your restorative hiking and fishing, and the reminder about where the upcoming holiday has its origins.
    Happy to report we’ve avoided commercial jingling and “office” parties so far. Our reserved Brit heritage, and my introverted curmudgeon act seems to stall invitations…
    Thanks Walt, this was soothing at the start of what might just be a long school week!

    • I think there’s a flair for “introverted curmudgeonism” in this corner, too, and I’m with you, I think it helps to keep things in check for a while. Meanwhile the long school week is upon us– may the cosmos prevail and guide us through! Thanks much, Plaid!

  2. Mark W says:

    It is a joy to be out on these gray December days without losing the feeling in fingers and toes! So some reason beyond my comprehension, I find these foggy, warm, gray, December days wonderfully peaceful. Sounds like you do too!

    • The sense of peace that one derives is special for several reasons, Mark. I’d say we appreciate the rarity of this weather now, and sense connections with the holidays. Also, it seems easier to walk the streams in this kind of weather: the vegetation is down; there’s greater clarity in the views, as well. Thanks for sharing your appreciation for these days.

  3. Walt
    Can’t believe the weather you guys are having there, I assume this time last year you had snow? I am jealous I wish I had streams like that to fish here. The Northeast is where my wife and I need to be living, but it’s too late in our lives to move now, but I can still dream. Thanks for sharing

    • Bill,
      The weather has been ridiculously pleasant of late. It makes you feel suspicious and inclined to believe that we’ll be paying for it big time later on. We usually have some snow on the ground at this point in the month, although the weather patterns have been so irregular over the last couple of decades that almost nothing is really surprising anymore. It’s been fun to be outside but it’s cooling off quickly now. Thank you!

  4. Walt, I’m honestly looking forward to hearing about how the “shack nasties” affects you. One of the things I enjoy about your writing is the feeling that no matter what, life springs eternal. I wish I fared so well.

    • Howard, those Nasties affect me every winter eventually, and even if we have a relatively warm season this year, I’ll be gripped to some degree like an old outhouse door in the jaws of a porcupine. As long as I’m alive, I have my writing, friends and family, and yeah, fishing/hiking, to help me stay above board. But there’s no guarantees for the inevitable processes of aging. I know that even if I don’t make it, even if the world as we know it goes down the porcelain toilet, someone will see the spring beyond us all returning. And Howard, it strikes me as significant, too, that you have that sense of creativity and humor that really helps to innoculate the self against aggressive forces in the “shack.” I wish we could all have such powers.

      • Thanks Walt! My wife, who is a therapist sums it up best when she says, “You’re f’ing nuts!” She has a degree so I can’t argue with her.. I hope you have a joyous what’s left of this Christmas day and Merry New Year.

  5. Les Kish says:

    Walt, with the impending solstice I look forward to lengthening days. It’s good for the psyche knowing that more light, albeit incremental, is in store. Never mind that we have several months of “real” winter ahead. Now, where is that ground hog?

    • I’ve always thought it a bit odd that some of us look forward to the Solstice as if it were a first real sign of spring, and not actually the first day of bonafide winter. Well, light is light, eh. I’ll take it, Les, and you will too. It’s nice to know it’s there and growing like a seed.

  6. Howard, My wife’s a therapist, too, and I know it’s hard to argue against the expertise, but sometimes I do it just for fun. A happy new season to you!

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