“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
On April 15th Leighanne and I drove south from the wintry residues of western New York for a weekend in the Pittsburgh environs and then onward for a week in central Virginia. Away from home, the fresh spring season came alive as vibrantly as a trout dunked momentarily into a stream of cold fresh milk.
I am not advocating an experiment whereby hatchery trout, or any kind of fish, are allowed to swim outside of their natural waters. I’m merely suggesting that “circumstantial evidence is very strong” at times, as in this case where a season is most welcoming. En route to Virginia we drove through the mountains of western Maryland and West Virginia in an unanticipated “nor’easter” for about eight hours when the trip, under normal weather conditions, should have taken only half that time. Unlike hundreds of other unprepared travelers, we came through relatively unscathed, and thankful for the southern warmth and bright blue sky.
Another trout in the milk, for me, has been more like a piranha in the bloodstream. Several months ago, I suffered a physical injury that limits my ability, for now, to walk long distances or even to wade a favorite stream, so I felt lucky to have strolled a bit of the southern trails and have had a measure of success while casting a dry fly to the river denizens.
To find words for my experiences I look to the seed syllables of language– to the wind and water and the birds– to communicate and share the joy and pain. The seed syllables can be sourced, as well, in the plants and animals and landforms of our place in the world. We may feel their impulse and respond with the equivalent of a field note, i.e., “Saw a kayak turned topsy-turvy in the rapids.” Later, the field note can develop the full reflection of an experience: “From the high bridge spanning the Youghiogheny River (aka “the Yawk”), the stranded kayak seemed to shimmy like a rainbow trout.”
The poet or the naturalist-at-heart transcribes a little corner of the world to help share its beauty or significance with others. Thus, we find our place in Nature and suggest its variability as we build an art form or develop a sense of peace or solitude or hope. Why not? We could do worse than mirror our relationships with the non-human world or that deeper place anchored in the overlap of civilization and the wild.
The writer William Stafford once said that “Poetry is something everyone is caught up in, early (as in childhood), and a few keep on doing.” The pursuit of poetry or music and the arts in general can help overcome the fragmentation of our specialized, adult lives. One need not be an artist to appreciate the work that artists do, nor be a fisherman to recognize a good trout finning in the milk.