The Solstice Snare

Even now, A thin glow hovers over summer’s dying sky.

The clock chimes ten,

the pull is there:

tomorrow will be imperceptibly earlier than today

And the next day will check out just a wee bit sooner.

And so on.

We said our last goodbyes sometime the evening of June 26:

the latest sunset of the year.

It didn’t pass off in fireworks and cheers. In truth, the night before seemed grander: an open sky, first stars, and night herons,

Squawking from the inky darkness painted in twilight’s corners.

Sunset was a scant few seconds earlier that night.

With no hint of the big swing into winter commencing two days later.

.

But I digress,

It all began on June 14th,

When the sun broke the horizon at its earliest point.

Celebrations began,

As the coastal fog had not shown that night,

And birds sang loud, in a pre-dawn clamor,

Along with a rooster

Still in its coop.

.

Those 12 days of summer’s solstice,

Perhaps more magical in memories

Now that they are slipping away.

In the subtle agony of my machined throes:

hold on, rewind, see it again,

Like I missed something the first time through.

Like last year,

And the year before that.

And so on.

.

Now mid-July

This slow fall long resumed. Gently pulled.

Through the staleness of what summer will become

Into the honeyed glory of Autumn, and winter,

Days gone meek,

Where mornings struggle just to raise a voice,

Resigned to a short, hopeless bridge between nights.

.

Forget that we should hold these times.

Turn, instead, so that we might fly on golden wings,

Sparkling eyes,

Above this great turning wheel.

November on the Klamath

Night’s silent choir,

Patiently gathered around the roots of trees,

Inside the river’s long bend,

And in the shadows of boulders,

Passing time under morning’s great bridge.

.

Across:

The orange of maples.

Ahead:

Paws of a lone bear.

Behind:

Tracks of a fisherman’s boots

Through the damp, grey sand.

.

These might be cobblestone dreams

On a lazy afternoon,

But that was October’s rhythm:

Summer’s back porch, shaded

In creaky planks

And sliced tomato gluttons.

.

Now, the soft arc of light,

Chilled in air gone stiff and still,

Begging for hunched voices,

That dare not stir old winds,

From behind sedge and willow.

.

A conversation,

The groans and gripes of water on rocks,

Goodbyes of frogs and leaves and liquored blackberry sunsets,

The gratitudes of full moon clouds,

A gift of rain.

.

Hurry,

The long gaze of night

Will soon turn us to pebble and stone,

Smooth and round, barely colored,

In the fading light.

Maybe this time

Maybe this time

You might stand a bit taller

Framed

In October’s teasing words,

Where summer wanes

In its wandering light,

Barely holding on

While the romanciers take flight.

.

There was the time we fell asleep

Playing along the tracks,

In between a train,

On the day,

come and go:

our rhythm,

Calling clouds,

Whistled story

Of great valleys

And toys

Still scattered

On the dirt bank.

.

Before we hid under the bridge

On a dare we answered,

Rolling in our slumberous child ideas:

Notions of far off places, tall buildings maybe,

Or wild woods,

We would soar.

.

While this air is changing,

I wonder if you look back,

To the dawn of memory,

And find in this day,

The stillness of space,

That open quiet

Calling once again.

.

I sometimes stop and wonder,

if the air we breathe today

Was our gasp at the trains

Passing overhead

Back then.

patience in a rainless world

Where is this hard line?

Through forest, over hill,

And across water I’m told

By the old men, gathered along

The river bar, waiting years for a fish

To be caught so they might move on

To the open fields to spend their days

Released from those toils.

.

That thin, frail string stretched

Through dark woods, and

Mirroring the sky,

Where the hard line of a storm

Challenges a stale afternoon.

.

The jagged line of rocks against water,

And the silent boils, softening a long seam

Where currents meet, reunited:

Partnering again in their purpose

As they explore a single winding path

To the place where land ends

And the great depth of the sea begins.

October 19th from the eyes of a 19-year old.

This is what I wanted to say

Before I fell muttering over sour coffee:

.

On october 19, at sunset,

A bright glow traces the place where summer ends

And the promise of winter begins.

.

Never quite seen then.

Sure, we’ll get the hope, But

Only see how summer has gone woefully stale,

Even wrong.

.

After a few more years,

The rhythm plays loud,

Then, the time will come,

And catch us muttering,

As we look far across the field,

Into the bright October sky.

.

The Way Summer Turns to Fall

It carries on the last bit of her laughter,

That last breath hanging in the air,

Just for a moment.

When every piece of her

Comes forth in smile and laugh,

Like some restrained ecstasy

Seeming ready to burst.

Then floating off,

Then, stillness.

She moves with purpose now,

But with a strange habit of

Great drifting circles and musings,

Like a big river, meandering, eddying, floating,

And, in time, maybe, finding itself again

Where the wandering currents combine,

And move onward to far off places.

She tells the story ever so carefully,

A story told again and again,

A story of places, a story of movement

All the while,

Her arms carry it along,

Her hands bring life to those places,

Her voice fills me.

Then, the long pause in her eyes.

Long after the last piece of laughter

Had vanished into a long wait

A fear comes over me,

If only I could sit still then, instead I’m frozen

Again.

This is my one chance, before I miss it all.

Again.

You see,

Hers is a story of the way things are right now.

Not what will be, as I want to think.

Nor just the way I remember it.

In that kind of way that memories can become.

Maybe,

Someday, I say, I will get the joy,

The essence, see that moment

when her laugh never stops.

Enter her stillness where we trace those circles,

Recounting the stories again, all full of life

And look out from her eyes

Onto the way things really are.

Time again…

 

Darkness sets in on arguably some of the best steelhead fly fishing on the planet this time of year ... all whipped to a frustrating froth by a wind that refused to ease up at sunset.

Right on schedule … mark calendars … Fall has begun and now is the time to convene at the river…

All the willow trees, blackberry bushes and dried grasses are almost the same as last summer. Except the blackberry crop this year is late, owing to the late rain and cool summer. This probably also explains the lack of algae along the rocks in the faster sections of river; the streamflows were likely high and fast enough into the summer to preclude the development of slippery substrates through much of the faster moving water. In places, the river bed is stunningly clear. Water quality is correspondingly improved as well (except for temperatures which are their usual late summer stressful levels). The relatively stable footing on the clean riverbed is an entirely new sensation for these parts at this time.

Right on time, as in years past, a weak front moved through yesterday moderating water temperatures and raising hopes of a windless afternoon. No such luck. The winds were strong and unabating into the evening making Slate Creek a “wind whipped hellhole” as I was prone to calling it long after the sun had sunk below the ridge. Despite this, the fish did come on the bite as darkness started creeping in. All half-pounders, with a back-to-back hookup at one point. Maybe four fish to hand and a few more LDR’d on a floating line. Very difficult conditions in the wind to control line, swing and patience. Regardless the fish are here. Did a quick pass through house-sized and sea-monster early with nothing. No fish showing on top at Slate Creek until near darkness, but difficult to see and hear in the wind-stirred froth. Now, from here on out, it’s all a matter of watching water temperatures, prospecting windless afternoons and reminding the boss that I will be scarce until at least November. All social and domestic obligations will be thrown aside. The time has come to convene at the river…

Still Fall Day

Soft afternoon sneaks under morning’s hold

Faint breeze hoisting tiny bits of almost forgotten summer

Save for a little dry stick along the path

Snapping under foot, cracking into the damp green new grass

And carried along on the breeze.

Gentle, slumbering afternoon for remembering a thousand other places

Just like now.

When this breeze might ruffle the curtain of summer’s open window

Or spoil the warmth of spring’s first day

Or maybe whisper “Here I come” on the edge of winter.

And this afternoon falls into the long hold of night

Long after the breeze passes to those other times

Where the morning, the night, the day

All hang in one long breath

Downtown Friday

Snapshot. Water drops off the edge of the roof, landing on the outer edge of the sidewalk. Cars crawl through the streets, head lights and red lights lighting up the drizzly, downtown evening. People huddle in doorways and under the overhanging eaves. Old faces and new faces move along. At the donut shop, a young lady plays guitar out front, hoping for a lucky dollar or two. Everywhere a steady choir of water wrapping up a cool November evening: car wheels whisking along the wet pavement, drops from the roof, the wet buzz of a northern California small town Friday night. The ice cream shop bustles with customers. Pumpkin perhaps, or honey vanilla lavendar maybe. Decisions are made across counters and over cafe menus. In dark doorways others huddle, maybe not so fortunate and wondering what decisions they might have left. A fellow staggers out of the bar under one of the dripping edges, oblivious for awhile until his cigarette is hit squarely and extinguished. Time for another drink, it’s still early.

We move about among the others, wondering if this is our place, or maybe our one chance. Down the crowded sidewalk, we’ll stop trying to figure it out. Not long after, the drizzle turns to rain and the gutters push it all somewhere. We hurry back to the car and leave this town behind.

The Essence of Fall 2009 – Celebrating Anadromous Fish

purple
Tying steelhead flies provides escape into the fantastically infinite world of intuition, dreams and pure, raw thought. Who invented calendars and watches and such that strive to pull us away from the real, into a place delineated by boundaries and frustration?

By my reckoning, we sit almost smack dab in the middle of Autumn, 2009. By the calendar’s telling, it began on September 21 and ends on December 21. Tonite, the moon wanes a week from full and pokes through showery clouds. The storm wet us down last night enough to raise the northern rivers a bit, but nothing of any appreciable runoff. Maybe in a utopian climate, fall would steadily evolve from summer’s drizzle into warm, light rains punctuated with the occasional heavier shower at night. These would be the Chinook rains where the rivers would raise slightly, allowing early fish to enter the coastal rivers. The rains would continue on and off, in a gentle, easy fashion, and we would say this is fall, regardless of the day or week or month; the time of passing rains. Chinook would find the lower rivers fresh and dependable generation after generation. Heavier rains would kick in around Thanksgiving and an early winter would set in. By Christmas, the rivers would all be swollen and open to the wanderings of steelhead and winter Chinook for several months. But it’s too easy to describe the ideal and, rather, fall seems to be a time of change with persistent bouts of summer hanging on and weather that remains uncommitted, or hesitant, maybe.

I am always intrigued by some of the reports from the early 1900s of fishable runs of Eel River fish showing in late August. Did the rains start earlier back then? Did the greater abundance of fish back then simply give way to earlier fish? In the 1930s, for example, Clark van Fleet wrote of fishing steelhead on the lower Eel in September following freshets that raise the river a bit – something almost unheard of these days. Newspaper reports hint at fishing for Chinook at the Van Duzen confluence in late August. Certainly, less aggraded rivers back then would likely have meant more surface water available in late summer, so maybe rainfall was not as essential for early fish as it is today. Still, though, the thought of rains routinely setting in during September on the coast is almost deliteful, if not disturbing to know those times have passed.

Now, here in early November, we can sit on the porch listening to the light shower dance down on the roof and dream of rivers and fish while the full moon lights a canvas of broken clouds. We can dream of those years when the rains come gentle and easy, guiding our way through a season like so many before. Instead we are left to guess and hope. Then again, maybe this is the essence of fall; a time of hope mixed with the turmoils of change. The frustrating part is that I could have told you September 21st was just as much Autumnal as is today. Interesting to note that December 21 marks the date of some of the more significant storms to pummel the north coast since records began. But even then, on the shortest day of the year, Autumn is everywhere. Then again, I could find you a Chinook in that same river, September, October, November or December. And they know, despite their chances early or late, that they will get it right.  Now, relieve me of the bondage of this absurb notion of time so that I might better know the essence of this season.