The old cliché says “Earth Day everyday,” but in a sense it might be true. I’m old enough to remember the original Earth Day celebrations on campus, and the week in April 1992 when I gave four public poetry readings centered around the concept of this special time. I’m also young enough, at last, to realize that this planet is the only one we’re ever likely to have. So, instead of simply consuming the Earth on a daily basis, we’d do well to give something back. The notion of giving back needn’t be complicated but it should be real. It can be small and given from the heart– a token of thanks for what sustains us daily as we wake to the blessing of “another day on Earth.”
Day 107: A sunny and comfortable Monday morning. Made my first catch of the day before I even reached the stream. I chased a couple of Easter balloons that were tied together and attempting to leave a wind-tossed field before I could reach them with a swat of my old Phillipson fly rod. I’ve never taken kindly to feral balloons dropping in from heaven. I snagged these babies and killed them with a piercing fly hook. Unlike the fish I land and give back to the stream, balloons and other bits of renegade plastic do not benefit from a catch-and-release ethos.
Ten minutes later I was fishing Spring Mills Creek when I found yet another holiday balloon, perhaps a gift from Erie, Cleveland or Chillicothe. Geez, these things are getting plentiful, like those crumpling tubes that once protected infant trees from deer and rodents in riverine habitats. Thankfully, wild brook trout brought me back to focus on the here and now of small stream fishing. I caught six or seven on a nymph or dry fly before proceeding to the headwaters, a project area for our chapter of Trout Unlimited, happily reviewing our success there near the border of New York and Pennsylvania.
Day 112: Earth Day. Cool and overcast. The streams and rivers were running high and muddy from recent rains. I fished the three branches of the upper Genesee, my home river, in a rite of spring that I perform one time each year. At the East Branch I caught a stocked brown on a Woolly Bugger and had strikes from two others. At the Middle Branch, on the summit of the Triple Divide, the stream was clear but extremely challenging for its small size. No catch there, but on the West Branch near Genesee, PA I managed to hook up with another brown.
All in all, no great shakes on Earth Day. And that’s okay. In fact, this day was pretty much like any other for me. I didn’t do much, if anything, to improve the world. The sight of garbage at a few locations was disturbing, and I collected a bit, but thankfully I also noticed several individuals gathering trash in or near the villages.
Although I didn’t add to the human population of the world, which increases daily, I probably added to the carbon imprint simply by driving to the streams and cranking up the lawn mower for another season of cutting grass. We just do what we can to help things out– by staying aware, and minimizing this for maximizing that.
In the evening, just before dusk, I watched the “sky dance” flights of a territorial woodcock from a point behind my house. As the male bird spiraled higher and higher against the clouds, I imagined its view as the perfect one– telling the fields and woodlands it was doing what it must, that the simple act of telling was what mattered now.
Day 113: A beautiful morning on Potter County’s Eleven Mile Run, the old South Bend 290 cane rod laying out a nice streamer but to no avail. Who cares if the trout aren’t biting on a day like this? There’s no sport here, just the passion of fly-fishing, the latest outing in a way of life. It’s been given to me, so I try to give something back.
In late afternoon, I brace myself for TU’s spring highway clean-up near the Genesee. Highways are never pretty in themselves, but we sweat and fill those big orange bags with trash. Perhaps we’ll get community recognition, but even if we don’t, we’ll save a bit of crap from drifting into the river. Soon we’ll be planting trees in critical riparian habitat– just willow trees, without plastic tubes. Small potatoes, surely, in light of what’s happening to our planet now, but it’s something almost anyone can do.