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.