Bright Lines in a Dark Time

Alright, I’ve taken deep breaths and tried to gain some personal balance. Hitting a bunch of trout streams, old and new, has been helpful, like a pill to ease a migraine.

Shady Rest Pool, Slate Run

Shady Rest Pool, Slate Run

For months or years, I’ve had a few “bucket list” streams in mind, those thin blue lines on a topographic map that have allured me, and now was a time to make a visit.

Cedar Run

Cedar Run

I began by traveling to the Pine Creek and the Kettle Creek valleys to park my vehicle and then proceed up these feeder streams in search of wild trout. I’m glad I did; the walks, the casting of a short line with a fly rod helped to clear some pain and confusion.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Walking in a wild place where humanity is little more than a miniaturized ball of madness helps to reinforce my needed balance. Beautiful little brook trout come to hand. The barbless hook is taken from the lip; a silent word of thanks is said; a fish is back in the stream, and I move on.

Walking a thin blue line, I stalk a narrow place between realities, between good and bad, right and wrong, between a world that is strong and bright and one that dwells in darkness, fear and bile.

Kettle Creek State Park

Kettle Creek State Park

I thank those little streams I’ve fished for the past two weeks: the small ones like Mill Run and Trout Run, the old familiars like Slate and Cedar, the bigger streams like Fall Creek and Hammersley Fork. I thank them because they’re beautiful and therapeutic for one who searches out and finds some scattered consolation. If I was a religious man, I’d pray for their continued care, the way I might wish the best for disenfranchised peoples everywhere.

Trolls' bridge

Trolls’ bridge

Some of what’s messing with my head is the feeling of disgust. I work in the field of education, and our educational system has failed us. Nothing new there. It’s not the best in the world; it’s not the worst. It’s mediocre, and that ain’t good enough. Yeah there’s always been problems, and yeah,  progress has been made. It’s not the 1930s anymore, but set-backs happen.

caddis larvae

caddis larvae

If it sounds like I’m whining, well, it’s just a beery funk. We all made mistakes; I don’t care what side you’re on. My hindsight is consistent with what I believed six months ago. Bernie Sanders is an honorable man.

Fall Creek

Fall Creek

So I walk the thin blue lines of wildness and see that no walls need construction here, that barriers implode like a worthless dam impeding passage to native fish.

Our nation is divided and that’s the choice we’ve made. I see a surge in the appearance of Confederate flags and Nazi symbols. I don’t mean to imply that everyone who voted for the President-Elect is morally bankrupt. Many good people had good reasons, I’m sure, but let’s face it, a lot of morons have been cleared to exit from their caves. Bigotry and hatred overshadow large portions of what we are about.

this brown was close to 20 inches

this brown was close to 20 inches

That said, it’s not a time to acquiesce and be subdued. Many Congressional Republicans despised our black President and fought him tooth and nail for reasons obvious and personal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If we don’t like the direction in which we’re headed, then non-violent protest makes sense to me. Call me any name you want, but I firmly believe that man and nature are imperiled, and if the election results don’t suit us, this is not a time to shut off the lights and go down easily.

will the environment go down the crapper, too?

will the environment go down the crapper, too?

Walking a thin bright line of watery reflection seems helpful. Music is another form of therapy. We just witnessed the passage of another great artist, poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen. Yeah, the guy who wrote “Hallelujah” and a boatload of other excellent songs, some of which are dark and plaintive, haunting but profoundly inspirational. Here’s one that helped me fish some blue lines just the other day…

a bright blue line

a bright blue line

By the way, Eric Burdon does an awesome cover of Leonard’s song, in case you’re interested.

Rest in peace, L.C.



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!
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Bright Lines in a Dark Time

  1. It sounds like you’re heading to all the right places to make sense of things. Small streams and willing fish are a great way to remove yourself from reality for a little while. I haven’t been able to get away to wet a line since last week, but I definitely feel the call to do so. I would just like a break from all the noise.

  2. You got it, Douglas, thank you and I hope you get the break soon. The way I see it, we don’t remove ourselves from reality when we do this. We immerse ourselves in the greater reality of nature and, if we’re lucky, we see that we’re a part of this, and not …apart… from it.

    • That’s a much better way of looking at it. I have a habit of thinking of reality as things that aren’t related to getting out and exploring and fishing. I forget it’s all connected, esepcially since rivers and lakes are usually so peaceful. I’ll be heading out again soon enough. There’s a river opening up tomorrow that I’ve been dying to fish this time of year.

      • Sounds right, Douglas. You’ll be expanding the zones of reality when you get out there exploring and looking for something new, like fish and all the rest of their fine company. Good luck!

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Consolation is going to be hard to find, but I’m delighted to read you found soothing places to restore some balance. Beautiful photographs of fish and spectacular streams once again. We found ourselves saying over and over that this result reflects a failure of education (and that the failure has been welcomed, even engineered, by those that profit from it – morally bankrupt – ugh!) Challenging times ahead…
    Much sorrow with the passing of Leonard Cohen, but consolation in all the great work he left. I enjoyed the choice you linked to here.
    Thanks for putting into words what many are likely feeling – and for saying that non-violent protest and dissent is a vibrant and necessary course of action in the face of bigotry.

    • Thanks PC, for all of this and more. Politics, economics, all of it, have a base in education or the lack of it. I work at the level of education where I think the system is particularly weak, so I feel like shit about that. There’s more to blame, of course, but I think we’ve all got some soul-searching to do. Meanwhile there’s the beauty of nature and of art to get us through, to help build up a reserve for the fight ahead. Leonard Cohen isn’t much for overt political statements, as Dylan is, but his songs have the power of transformation.

  4. Brent says:

    2016 hasn’t been easy. We’ve seen the passing of some powerful voices in music. Especially painful for me, the veil has come off of America’s small-town soul, revealing something that isn’t pleasant at all.

    I guess people of color and other marginalized folks have known that this country is sick–always has been sick in many ways–and only those of us with the privilege to be optimists weren’t able to see it fully.

    Your trip here, your exploration of something that might partially heal what hurts, is one I’ve tried to follow in my own way. I’ve walked through the woods, followed the river banks…and it has helped a little. I’m hoping the Moormans has something powerful for me next week. We’ll see you soon, have a beer, and dare to hope for something better.

  5. It’s been a difficult year, alright, through the world of music and nature on down through the ugliness of the political campaign. It might get worse before it gets better. When I see the unveiling of the small-town soul (why am I thinking Coudersport, PA, that beautiful trout-fishing town) I know the pain you’re referring to. The unveiling goes beyond the small town, though. The good, the bad, and the ugly have been there all along. It’s just that now the nastier element has spiked, for obvious reasons. Some would say that the hatred issued now has to be dealt with, and that’s how real progress will be made. Time will tell. Meanwhile, really looking forward to hoofing the Moormans again and easing our slide toward winter with some good old Blue Ridge brews!

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    Well said, mon frère. Ignorance and small-mindedness has carried the day, along with apathy perhaps, on the other side of the aisle, and maybe some tampering by a federal agency that should have probably not said anything till they actually had something to say. This election will likely be the most scrutinized in recent history; the reality TV star and sometimes billionaire hardly received a mandate from the masses. But, as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough go fishing. So with that in mind…where is Fall Creek? Oh, and I listened to”Bird on a Wire” when I heard the news of Mr. Cohen’s passing.

  7. Danke shon, meine freund! Had to laugh, on hearing it again, “When the going gets tough, the tough go fishing…” Yeah, I threw Fall Creek in there as a curve. It was a return to the stream in Ithaca. Hence the report of a larger fish. As for Cohen, he’s being missed. He’s got some dark ones in the catalogue that, if you listen, can only make you feel better at times like this. Hang in there, buddy.

  8. rommel says:

    Sorry for being such a fan, but I love your blog. 😀 You put so many different pieces together into one cohesive post. Somehow you put together fishing, adventure, nature, politics, and then music and musician. And it’s well interwoven. It’s like magic. 😀
    That bright red tree against the greens is WOW! o_O

  9. marymaryone says:

    Thanks for the therapeutic post. Looks like I will be walking out in nature quite a bit in the foreseeable future.

  10. JZ says:

    I know what you mean Walt. Therapeutic jaunts immersed in nature while carrying a fly rod does the mind plenty. Last Friday, I took a journey forth to Little Kettle creek (I get around). Glad I did and feel better for it. The pain and confusion your experiencing will soon be washed away. Much like rains that help provide broken water and conceal trout whereabouts. Fear not, go forth with the same optimism you do when fishing. That feeling of hope and renewability waits in the next connecting riffle or soft pool around the bend. Your a fly fisherman Walt! So tap into the same spirit you do when tying flies at the vice on a cold winter night. Those flies catch fish. Just like those new policies will bring forth a stronger economy. Think positive, just like you do when fishing. Hope you feel better…

    • Good advice, JZ. You know, I think one of these days our fly-fishing tracks are going to cross each other’s and we’ll meet. You were up on Little Kettle on the same day I was downstream but up on Trout Run and the Hammersley Fork. And I thought I was the only guy fishing out there! Be well, and thank you.

  11. Mark Miles says:

    Really sympathize with your post. I was no fan of Barack Obama, but I have no doubt Donald Trump will make him look meek and saintly by comparison. Of course the real problem is the system, which is beholden to corporate interests and big money. Anyway, I appreciate your candid thoughts as always. 👍👍

    • Thanks Mark. I agree with your assessment about the system, and believe that Obama, who in my opinion did some good but could have been a stronger president, will look better and better as the new executive settles in (gasp!) and does what he wants to do.

  12. GRANDPA MEL says:

    Music…………………… Therapeutic

    Thank you, Walt. I needed that………………

  13. Doug says:

    Walt, the photos and posts about this world’s direction and the appreciation of the light and dark out of all of it, closes with your mention of Leonard Cohen – 21 Sept. 1934 to 7 Nov. 2016 was the most beautiful way to close your blog this week, as Cohen died on my 63rd birthday. With the news of the release of his final CD of poetry, and I do mean pure, depth diving poetry, You Want It Darker, is perhaps the BEST I’ve ever heard. This man, make that gentleman, made his end count for his whole career. My wife ordered (You Want It Darker) for me for my birthday through for $11.88 plus shipping and handling. When I put it in for the first time and hit play, from phrase #1, I was hooked, stunned, totally blown away. Take such musical poets as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and all the others that have been considered poets? Take all the poets of the 20th Century and they would all bow to this BRILLIANT final Good-Bye. I have listened to this CD daily. I can’t put it down. RIP Leonard Cohen and for my final Good-Bye to you Mr. Cohen, sir, I say from the inside out, you’ve done it and you’ve done it with and in, total class.

    • Doug says:

      Oh and you can listen to this CD in its entirety on youtube. Then if I’m not mistaken Leonard Cohen will pass with a few new fans.

      • First, belated birthday wishes, Doug, and I hope you have a great new year.Thanks for your response here that includes a deservedly enthusiastic account of Cohen’s artistic virtues. He is not about to fade away. I’ve been listening and responding to the songs for about 30 years or so, and am finding new stuff all the time. I’ve heard parts of his final album. From what I’ve heard (I love the title cut), and from your own recommendation, I’m gonna listen to that album in its entirety. Soon!

  14. Mary says:

    Thank you for your words,your photos, and the noting of our loss of the beautiful Leonard Cohen. I am in tune with your sentiments completely. Everyone else has said it well.

  15. My friend, although we apparently don’t agree on several matters, the one that matters most we do…God bless our country. I’m nervous but feel reassured that since we lived through George Wallace, that we’ll still be standing proud in 4 years. Those of us who fish and write have the best mechanisms to calm our nerves and look towards a better tomorrow. Thanks for your point of view Walt.

  16. Appreciate your honesty, Howard, and for sharing your truths about those mechanisms that calm the nerves and point a way toward a brighter future. Thank you.

  17. Anonymous says:

    You can leave your safe room now, things will be much better, and hopefully we can put a stop to the cop shootings. When the protesters break laws they need to be arrested !

    • I’m not sure where you’re coming from, Anonymous, but if you’re referring to the upcoming political regime, you’ll be in good shape (I jest) being led by an esteemed upholder of moral principle and an honorable man of “truth and justice.”

  18. “a beery funk.” Ah, brother, I feel ya. Thank you for this. I’m just finally getting back to reading the blogs I’ve been nurtured by. Yours remains among the top of that pile. Getting-back-into-the-woods therapy has been good for me too. In my case, it’s the trails and the birds of prey, though, with a guide like you, I might have become a fisherman.
    And music, finding therapy there too. And Leonard–oh what can be said. What a gift to humans. And I do need to do something useful with my “Case for Bernie Sanders” blog. I just don’t know what. Thank you for all of this. You’re a good man.

  19. You’re mighty welcome, David, and thank you for the kind words. It’s always good to hear from you, a voice of friendship and sanity, and excellent writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.