At last the upstate temperature had risen into the 50s, and snow-melt rushed down from the hills. In this topsy-turvy world of climate change, the New York weather might now be warmer (again) than the winds of Barrow, Alaska. Oh, cold weather would return in a night or two, but I couldn’t complain (too much). 23 Canada geese battled northward underneath the rushing clouds; a few robins and sparrows flitted from grove to grove; the signs of spring were slow to arrive.
My impatience for the change of season was an indication of my own advancing years, no doubt, and its vehicle seemed to come here in the form of small stream fantasies, that itch to be near the water once again, with fly rod in hand, and with new dreams as a highway to spring.
Recently I’d been thwarted from a mountain stream in Pennsylvania because of deep snow on the long walk to the water; I was turned down from an outing up at Spring Creek in New York by sudden winds and an apparent lack of trout; my sense of freedom felt the pang of discontent and the presence of a barrier that would not dissolve or break away. Sure, I could fight the “shack nasties” by staying home and reading books, tying flies and taking weekend hikes, as I had done since early January, but man, I had to stop complaining and get a grip on seasonal progress.
I knew the Green was out there, just beyond my grasp. The fantasy might corral it– the belief that the season will arrive as it always has, in due time, without the cold and snow, the grayness and the bodily afflictions. The beauty of the dream is this: when it’s actualized it won’t look the way that I imagined it. The range between reality and dream exceeds our expectations. That’s not a bad thing, when you think about it– without the range there’d be little to define our individuality. Patience and humility are difficult subjects to grasp and assimilate.
The fantasy is generic and doesn’t name the streams and rivers to be fished, or the trails to be walked in getting there. The land and waters might belong to non-human realms, to the birds and fishes and forests of our dreams, but they’re extremely vital and are linked directly to the Quest. We’re rooted in a larger sphere of beings, and to acknowledge that world and appreciate its beauty, all we need to do is get immersed, to seek the slightly different angle in the track of the familiar. As Thoreau said, move yourself a hair’s breath from the path of usual routine and you’ll find yourself with a fresh enchanted view, the small stream fantasy actualized.
“Beauty and music are not mere traits and exceptions,” he said. “They are the rule and character…” We get a sense of our place in the universe, the larger community of life. The voices from the land and water merge with human voices when their speakers capture our imaginations. We listen as if from a timeless space because the sounds are ancient and mysterious, present and alive.
A recent comment at this blog expressed a reader’s wish that the phoebe would soon return to his haunts on Fall Creek in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. I responded by saying that it won’t be long; the flycatcher would soon arrive. The reader’s comment reminded me of a poem included in my chapbook called Rootwork & Other Poems. Here’s the first of four sections in the poem called “From the High Hills to the Bay”:
“We’re awakened in a late March dawn/ By the phoebe flown in from the South,/ Rasping from walnut boughs above the shed./ Phoebes, feathered spirits of the place,/ Have nested here even in the empty/ Interim years between former inhabitants/ And our own arrival years ago./ Already they’ve begun to reconstruct the/ Fraying nest still glued beneath the eaves./ They teach us how to live here, how to know/ A place as they might know it homing in blood/ Through a northward passage in cold night./ Although each autumn’s silence wings them south,/ Phoebes hold to knowledge of return….”
A small stream fantasy helps to reinforce my sense of place, of where I live, and what I hope to achieve. The lands and waters will be opened once again, despite my current qualms and pessimism. I will feel like I belong there once again. I’ll add my voice to the province of the wild, to its plants and animals and their foothill homes. A new season can’t be far away.