Between the Streams

There have been a lot of ups and downs here since the last post on Rivertop Rambles. I spent six days fishing in the Blue Ridge out of 10 days in Virginia, boulder hopping, climbing streams like Cedar Run, the North Fork Moormans and the Rapidan River. Brook trout rose to the dry fly, especially to the Little Yellow Stone, and they shot down into the depths again upon release.

I could rise by watching Louisiana water-thrushes flying from streamside to the wooded cliffs above the river. I could kneel down to observe a wildflower by the trail (if I wasn’t stumbling to the ground like a drunkard turned loose in the forest). I snapped photos of the last bloodroot flower loosening its petals for release. I reveled in the sight of spring beauties, wild ginger and white trillium. I let emotions quarrel with thoughts concerning news both personal and political.

I enjoyed a ride up to James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier, a tour of the presidential mansion where the U.S. Constitution was composed. We took a leisurely walk down through the wonderful plantation gardens and inspected the baser homes of slaves once owned by our fourth president.

At Montpelier’s gift shop I picked up a book entitled The Home Place, Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and after perusing this book by J. Drew Lanham, an Afro-American, Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher at Clemson University, who is also a birder, naturalist and conservationist with literary talent, I knew I’d better buy the book because it already seemed to possess me.

I took a ride up to Washington D.C. to visit my son, his wife, and her parents. Standing with a craft beer on the little patio of an elevated apartment, I could look down on a sidewalk and enjoy the quiet April trees and dogwood blossoms. Brent had purchased concert tickets for himself and me because he knew I liked The Residents, and they were playing/performing in the newly developed district called The Wharf.

We shot down to the river on the subway and settled into the venue with our Two-Hearted Ales for spiritual support. The Residents are a strange “American art collective best known for avant-garde music and multi-media works.” They’ve been around since the 1970s, endorsing willfull obscurity, performing anonymously in masks and outfits such as eyeball helmets and tuxedos. They seemed like musicians that had stepped from the dark side of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” and they were better than either one of us expected.

The music from “Between the Dreams” (the tour) was tight as hell and virtuosic. Bird masks loomed above the players. The vocalist sported a gruesome cattle helmet, and the striped suits were de rigueur. The light show and video displays of luminaries like Richard Nixon, Mother Theresa, and John Wayne speaking from dreams within a large round head tossed layers of surrealism through the room. The music and the overall performance were emotional and loud, horrific one moment and hilarious the next.

We would tumble from the heights whenever words failed to adequately describe what happened. It was fun. We shot back uptown on the subway and could hope that our own dreams wouldn’t be greatly influenced by The Residents, at least not in the short run.

Soon I was up for coming home and getting back to old routines, to fishing, to signings, to planting of trees along our “project stream,” to contemplations on the pros and cons of passing time. All too quickly I was down again with the familiar: spring would have regressions, fishing on upper Pine would be slower than expected (although the little brook trout on TU’s project stream would rise bravely to a dry). And thanks to new friends and to old, the time spent in bookstores and on the rivers and in the woods (even in my solitude) was good.

The days flow by like waves on the sea. Climbing and tumbling, and climbing again.

T-2, the project stream

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 Between the Streams

  1. Jet Eliot says:

    A pure joy to ride the waves of your words here, Walt, the sights of today and the past, and all the senses you awakened in between. My thanks.

  2. Brent says:

    I’ve been wondering when I’d read this. Your description of The Residents as Boschian might be the best single adjective I’ve heard. I hope you are enjoying the slow emergence of spring further north–it’s in healthy full swing here.

  3. John says:

    Spring in the Virginia mountains….the perfect time of year.

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    My pal Steve is a huge Residents fan (and Captain Beefheart, as well); they don’t come much more avant-garde than that ensemble. Got my first wild Rainbow the other night, on one of the few streams in PA that supports a population, Porcupine Creek in Venango County. A fiesty scrapper, all seven inches of him.

    • The Residents have acknowledged Beefheart as one of their influences, and I could see why. Steve’s another guy who lives dangerously but smart. Bob, glad you found a wild rainbow connection in PA. The only PA stream where I have found them is Falling Spring, down south. Nice going.

  5. Glad to hear you’ve ushered in Spring in style Walt. I’ll have to check out the Residents.

  6. Ralph says:

    Thanks for taking us along. It’s been about 4 years since I’ve fished the Shenandoah Valley. You did not help me on that issue. 🙂 Is that last pic of the Pine? Looks a lot like the pool just above the head of Owassee Rapids in the canyon?

    • No, I didn’t get to fish the Shenandoah Valley this trip (Mossy Creek and others) but I hope to be of help with some reflection from that place again. As for last pic, that’s a good guess, Ralph; it does resemble the Rapids a bit, but actually it’s on the North Fork in the Blue Ridge Mntns. A pretty spot, in any case.

  7. loydtruss says:

    What an experience spending time in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. The beautiful trout images proved it was worth your time navigating the rocky terrain to let Chester work his magic. Great post, thanks for sharing

  8. plaidcamper says:

    I enjoyed reading your ups and downs between the streams, Walt. Busy spring days and nights, and much to think about, politically. If only those with the responsibility handed to them would apply some considered thought…
    I hope there are more pros than cons as we grow older, and maybe wiser. Will follow up on the book you mentioned here, but perhaps not with The Residents. I did like the sound of DC in spring. We usually visit in sultry summer, and it gets steamy there!
    I’ve been saving Streamwalker’s Journey for the summer, looking forward to a fine read under a tree overlooking the ocean (a sneak peek at the first couple of chapters indicates a fine read!)
    Thanks for this, and have a great weekend!

  9. You got it, Plaid, a lot of ups and downs, but middle Spring is always inspirational. Wish it could direct the powers-that-be toward peace and cooperation. Yeah the city (traffic aside) was pleasant enough in April… Summer there is too damned hot and humid. Thanks, as always, for your support, friend.

  10. Welcome back, time with loved ones and spring in the Shenandoah’s will usually lighten the heart! Very nice pictures of the trillium and trout lily also

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