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.”

could aliens drop in with these balloons?

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.

a work project site

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.

the NY/PA border

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.

Phillipson rod & hemlock tree

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.

Genesee River at Triple Divide

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.

Eleven Mile Run

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.

a resident at T-2 Manor

Trout lily/South Bend 290

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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18 Responses to 24/365

  1. Great mention of Earth Day. Not much mentioned on campuses and news outlets. Bill Maher gave a nice statement on his Friday 4/21 show. I was fishing one of Cleveland’s urban rivers, the Rocky, and noticed the trash seemingly sprouting out of the hillsides and culverts surrounding the waterway. It was godawfulugly so we picked up some detritus and made our way home. Be aware, be conscientious in your purchases, and help out when you can. Also great acknowledgement to TU who always seem to be involved in the right things. Thanks.

  2. Great to hear from you, Jack. Thank you for the kind words and the acknowledgement that TU rightfully deserves. The road and streamside trash that blooms disgustingly (especially in the spring) when all else seems so fresh, can be disheartening, to say the least. Our work is never done but sometimes there’s satisfaction to be found when we do the best we can.

  3. Brent says:

    Some nice perspective here. One can feel helpless to make a difference in the big picture, especially when you consider how indispensable habits like getting in the car are offsetting whatever small acts of good we accomplish. Often, we just need to focus on doing the small things that are in our power and telling ourselves (truly) that, all other things being equal, we improved the world a small bit through that act. Clean up that litter, plant a tree, take a walk instead of driving, take in the woodcock’s dance instead of watching TV.

    I’ve been wrestling this helplessness a bit as we move. Realizing how much sheer waste that two frugal people can generate in five years is daunting, and underscores how even those who are conscious of their place in the world are just consumers and users.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, Walt – do something, anything – a little is better than nothing at all. Wasn’t it Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you’re at.” Or something to that effect. In relation to Brent’s comment, I feel the weight of my choices daily. I try to live fairly minimally, but still I am astounded at how much crap I generate.

    • Thanks for sharing, Bob. Teddy hit the spike on the cranium for that idea. It’s amazing how much we consume, and trying to keep our heads above it, through recycling and all, is a constant dog paddle. Enjoy the spring swim anyway!

  5. plaidcamper says:

    It’s all been well said by yourself and your commentators above – small acts, kind acts, find some balance and each little piece adds up. And remember to share/tell, because it gets passed on, a little education and wisdom can (hopefully) go a long, long way…
    Thanks for this one, Walt!

  6. JZ says:

    I have to laugh, how do you keep running into these colorful balloons streamside Walt. Its an oddity that defies explanation because of the canopy of trees that engulf are beloved small streams. All the balloons I have ever seen were found tangled high in the trees above and none near water. Walt, you come across the craziest things, its funny, at least to me. Getting back to everyday earth day concept, being environmentally conscience is giving back in a big way. It adds up quickly and renews the sense of what is important. Clean air, clean water and ground should be more than a idea. I see the fishing has been productive Walt over your last couple outings. I hope to be knocking on heavens door soon too..

    • JZ, the balloon discovery thing really does seem nuts to me. It seems like my home waters are ground Zero for them, perhaps because of wind patterns or my mixed up brain patterns! For me it started back in the early 80s when I found a weather balloon from some meteorological society that wanted the finder to return a metal box attached to the thing. And it hasn’t let up since. I find them all the time, dammit! Anyway, thank you for your good sense and feed back, and I hope you’re knocking on those stream doors soon!

  7. I do get tired of picking up other’s trash, but I feel obligated to try and make my home waters a little bit nicer than when I arrived. Meanwhile in Colorado, the natives were busy celebrating 420 Day at the civic center in Denver. What a mess they left behind!

    • Denver natives must have been pushing it! Not sure what 420 is, but it’s going 55 beyond the limit, methinks. Thanks Howard!

      • 420, 4:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a code-term in cannabis culture that refers to the consumption of cannabis, especially smoking cannabis around the time 4:20 p.m./a.m. (or 16:20 in 24-hour notation) and smoking and celebrating cannabis on the date April 20 (which is 4/20 in U.S. form).[3]

  8. loydtruss says:

    Great interpretation of what earth day should mean to everyone including our current President. It pains me to see trash of any kind on our streams and lakes we all love to visit and fish. Let’s hope more emphasis on conservation will prevail. The lily and Chester is worth framing—special!!! Great post, thanks for sharing

    • Bill, Although Chester had a sub in for the lily pic, he and I greatly appreciate your response here and are pleased that the Earth Day conservation ethic works in your day to day business. Thanks and have a great weekend!

  9. Thanks Howard, for clarification on 420. I forgot and just don’t try to keep up with cultural events anymore. When the counter-culture movement first took off, it seemed that its myriad aspects were more unified instead of being scattered and isolated as it seems today. Smoke is smoke and it’s been around forever, legal or not, 4:20 or whatever specific time it is. Though the Woodstock era wasn’t any Golden Age, in terms of the counter-culture, I think that a “420” event would have been more closely tied to an Earth Day prospect then.

  10. Ralph says:

    Know that stretch well. Great water. As-is the Genny. Thanks for sharing.

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