“Happy the man who does not read advertisements,/ does not listen to their radios/ does not believe their slogans. He will be a tree planted near running water.” — Ernesto Cardenal
Often in times of social and political turmoil, I’ll be reminded of these lines by Cardenal, a Nicaraguan priest and poet who died in March of this year. I read them and remind myself that the natural world can assist with our healing process, similar to the way that peaceful protest and assembly can usher in hope for Earth’s downtrodden…
It was good to immerse myself in the freshness of Little Kettle Creek. I might have gone there feeling like an old deciduous tree grasping for greenery, but I walked away (with angling partner, Jim) more like a pliant willow– rooted, but as youthful and content as my old bones would allow. The next two mornings I was ready for more– ready for Oswayo and Eleven Mile creeks and whatever their wild trout, birds and blossoms had to offer the itinerant soul.
An angler or a hiker stands near running water but appreciates the movement of imagination like a breeze through pine and hemlock boughs. This privilege of leisure is a modest one, certainly, but one that’s sadly unobtainable to many who are sick or unemployed or just plain kicked around by social injustice.
Green Drake, Sulphur, and Slate Drake patterns were functional, as was a Perdigon nymph fished deeply. Songbirds vocalized– wood thrush and veery, oriole and tanager, even Louisiana water-thrush with a grub in its beak. Wildflowers caught the roving eye–Dame’s-rocket, lady’s-slipper, starflower, and ragged-robin (a wetland species getting difficult to find in many areas).
I might have been planted near running water but, luckily, I had motion and could still get my feet wet.
I was fishing through the woods along Eleven Mile when I caught a whiff of natural gas. The smell grew stronger as did a noise that sounded like compressed, escaping air. I came to an old gas line laid above the stream from bank to bank, and there it was– a broken juncture spewing air and gas and liquids into the trout stream and on the ground. I made contact, eventually, with Potter County Emergency Services and directed a response team to the otherwise pristine and remote location.
I could be planted like a tree whose roots grew deeply but it didn’t mean I had more safety or security than anyone else. I looked above and saw a bald eagle soaring in lazy circles high against the blue. It drifted along at such a height that, without binoculars, it appeared no larger than a tiny red ant. Then, through 10x glasses, I could see a symbol of the freedom that every being has a right to own or have an access to.
Recently I took a morning walk up the South Ridge near my home. I crossed the stream, preparing to climb, when I heard another strange sound emanating from the nearby shrubbery. The grunt or squawk reminded me of an alarm call made by a deer or a great blue heron. Then I saw them– a black-furred creature followed by a reddish-brown animal leaping through the water only feet away then disappearing into the alders.
I had never seen a pair of fishers before. Fishers, a large member of the weasel family, are typically solitary creatures with extensive hunting ranges, except at mating time in early spring. The dark one was probably a female and the lighter one a male, both of them the size of small foxes, but with short legs and large bushy tails. And yet, this was early June– I had to wonder what was going on.
Questions begged an answer but I knew enough to let them go. I stood near the water’s edge then climbed away, content with the company of creatures I could apprehend by sight or sound, and those left almost wholly to imagination.
I like those lines from Cardenal! An appropriate book donation to the library – some lucky kids will read that, get hooked, and then want to go down to the river, see what they can catch. Good stuff.
You’ve more than earned the extra river-leisure time, well done, and enjoy it all!
Thank you much, Adam!
You know, I never heard of fishers before. Was this the first time you saw any of them?
Fishers were native to this part of the country, were exterminated, trapped out & missing for about a century until reintroduced a couple of decades back… I saw my first one here about 10 years ago. Since then I’ve encountered wild fishers at least a half dozen times, including in Maine & Pennsylvania. Last fall I saw the dark one on my land, then the lighter one (a male) nearby about a month ago. But this is the first time I’ve seen two together. They are creatures of the big woods and it’s heartening to see them again. If you’re ever in the wilds of northern PA, you might glimpse one when you least expect it.
Thank you for reading the post, and for the inquiry, too!
Sounds like a great few days.
We had a single fisher visit our back yard earlier this spring. Unexpected excitement!
Nice blog Walt.
Thanks Don. I’ve read that fishers make occasional forays into the suburbs up your way. Must be you have porcupines for them, too. We have plenty of porkies here, for sure.
Teachers get my utmost respect. I volunteered at my kids’ Middle School for about 7 years. I thought that if I could help the math teachers do whatever they do, that somehow I was helping the kids get a better education. Sometimes that would be making copies of a lesson or testes in the office, and sometimes it was walking around the classroom and helping kids understand concepts of algebra.
I don’t know with certainty the scope of your association with the education system, but I admire anyone who teaches the future generations.
Your blog is a testament to your devotion to nature and conservation, in my opinion. Thus, I wish you a good retirement (as it sounds like you are doing so). This post, as with most if not all others, is top-notch. Congratulations on making a career of helping future generations.
Wow, you really put in some time there in the Middle School, and as a volunteer. Good job!. I found that too many parents did not, or could not, get involved with their kids education, sad to say. But the kids who were engaged with their lessons and who did their best made it all worthwhile for me thorough out my 23 years of instruction in NYS (not counting other jobs or other state employment. Thanks for all you do, Marion.
You are quite welcome Walt! I should have stipulated – I volunteered only one day a week. That reduces the admiration factor by about 4 fold I think. Sorry, didn’t mean to imply otherwise. – UB… aka Mairon
dan…g… Um… MaRion… lol
Got ya! Still admirable.
Your beautiful descriptions of Nature wanderings give me much vicarious pleasure. Thank you!
Thanks Tio! Always glad to wander with you.
Retirement… Congrats and enjoy! I’m happy for you.
Retired… tired yesterday & tired again today… Re-tired! Thank you, Bob.
I could see a brookie leisurely rising and taking a dry fly floating on the surface of the Eleven Mile stream. I assume the Drake pattern got the brook trouts attention? Thanks for sharing
Yes, a large mayfly pattern like a Drake dun or spinner got the trouts’ attention for a while on the smaller streams. Thanks Bill.
Congratulations on your retirement, Mr. Franklin! Incredible that you got to see a pair of fishers; I’ve yet seen just one. I did see a loon on Chapman Lake today, which shocked me. Usually on their trip northward they make a yearly stop, but they’re gone by mid April. Perhaps a straggler? And in news that I know you’ll appreciate, I heard a whippoorwill – in Slate Run!
Good news Bob! Your Chapman loon would definitely be a straggler. I didn’t see any this spring till mid or late-April when I thought I’d missed them. As for whippoorwills I’ve struggled to hear them here again but no show. For you to hear one in Slate is excellent! They used to be reported there regularly in the old days but I hadn’t heard of late. Then you got me going by playing that recording of the PA bird from near your place. Remarkable, and thank you!
P.S. After reading this response this morning, friend Marion (U.B.) was reminded of the whippoorwill(s) he recorded in Slate Run this May & June from his patio there in Slate. He sent me his recording of the dusky chorister, and it was great to hear!
Good words to heed by Cardenal. Sounds like you have had some fine days recently; in the water, on the banks and on wings in the air. Congrats on your retirement, Enjoy ! Looks like a perfect book donated in your honor.
Yes, and thank you much, Ross. It’s always good to hear from you, and I’m hoping that you & yours are coping well and enjoying some outdoor time together.
A wonderful tribute and way to be remembered at a place that occupied so much of your time and caused quite a few headaches–not that many kids’ educations weren’t enriched in the process by learning from a guy with a broad base of knowledge! And I’m not familiar with Cardenal, although I like his words that open your post.
Thanks Brent, it’s been enjoyable, and the book choice for the library was spot on!