I’m growing silent these days. I’m not sure why, although I’m also angered and saddened by political events and tragedies occurring in this crazy world. I’m growing silent at a time when my voice should be loud with protest. I’m so quiet that the stream and the forest call to me as if they were my home.
I have words but they are few. The torn curtain of this modern life is pushed aside. I seek solace with the wild things of the mountain. I step slowly, carefully, so not to spook the trout of Kettle Creek. I cast a 10-foot tapered leader with a tippet like a spider’s thread. I listen to the cricket songs, the squawk of a jay, coming from the drab October leaves and streamside vegetation. The ancient hills rise up as if to cradle my advance, to paint me with a hint of autumn flame.
There are times when the poet should be quiet, saving his voice for later. The wildness of the mountain streams, the framing sense of place that gives each day new meaning, has no need for talk. Still, I hear a message to be thankful for my years, thankful for the fire in my blood.
Without a sound, I lay a long cast of an Adams dry fly on the pool where caddis hatch. Another small brookie rises quickly and comes in. I kneel at the water, wet my hands to release the hook and then the fish. The bond is set.
Years ago, I wrote a poem with this headwaters on my mind, the stream that has seen me year after year, that will see me, surely, when my time comes to an end.
Sononjoh (aka Kettle Creek)
October mountains/ rise above/ Black Kettle’s fishery,/ over “strange/ romantic land”/ of pioneers who/ feared the wild.// The slack line drifts/ repeatedly/ above elusive trout/ past the boulders of glide and pool.// Sononjoh: one/ sunlit riffle sings/ the ancient name.
I was going to be silent (almost) but instead I’ve fished for words. As a writer, I suppose it’s normal to be filled with contradictions. So I catch a few words, release them on the page. The voice swells slowly as I think about the huge machine called civilization. The machine is glittery and assuring till we learn its ways. Its creature comforts hide the cost. It spits away our children as it eats the earth with war and murder and pollution.
[Playing the album “Marquee Moon” by Television (1977) always helps me when I’m down. Its final cut, Torn Curtain, is an astounding finish to one of rock’s most perfect albums (don’t just take my word for it). From the “painfully elegant” chorus to the guitar coda that feels like “falling off a cliff,” the song has always made me want to “shed the tears I never shed.”]