“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.