Thursday, February 16, 2017

Fishing for home #phenology

This past Tuesday, I voted. The candidate for whom I voted was not elected. Did I waste my time, bothering to vote? If I hadn't spent much of my time over many decades going fishing, I might think so. But one thing I learned with absolute certainty from all those years of fishing trips: I might not catch any fish if I go fishing, but I absolutely can't catch any fish while sitting on my butt at home. According to a recent analysis, the fact that a Republican won by substantially less than Trump carried the district is a good sign. That strikes me as similar to a fishing report in which I announce that I didn't catch any fish but I enjoyed the weather and the birds and just "getting out."

North Country river, Superior National Forest
North Country river, Superior National Forest
Photo by J. Harrington

Obviously, I am way too goal oriented. I enjoy learning to identify local plants but then ask myself what good does that knowledge do me? Am I going to find a use for the plants as food or medicine? Well, in fact, the answer sometimes is yes. Foraging for wild foods is an enjoyable hobby. And, for that matter, "getting out" is much better than not "getting out." Part of the reason I learn about some of the local plants is so that I can feel more at home in the area by knowing the names of some of the neighbors.

I ended up sorting through lots of these thoughts recently after I finished reading The Spirituality of Fly Fishing. One of the recommendations therein is to read Ted Leeson's The Habit of Rivers. That's a book I had read many years ago. It was still sitting on a shelf in our downstairs library. I had forgotten that Leeson wrote it after his relocation from Virginia to Oregon, which approximately doubled my journey from Massachusetts to Minnesota. Leeson writes that:
“To locate yourself in new territory and lay some claim more consequential than a mailing address, I believe you must seek out what could be called its "sense of place," that particular weave of relationships among plants, animals, people, landscape, ideas, and history that flourishes more or less uniquely under local circumstance. I know of only one way to go about the search—take up a single thread of the fabric, follow it, and just let one thing lead to another.”
Autumn, North Country asters
Autumn, North Country asters
Photo by J. Harrington

I suppose, without thinking about it too much, that's what I've been doing since I arrived in Minnesota many years ago. Now I'm trying to make some sense of those threads I've followed to see which, if any, patterns I've created with my weavings and followings. Maybe I'm finally learning the truth of Emerson's observation that "Life is a journey, not a destination." That brings us back to voting and fishing. For either, for both, doing is better than not doing. Looking at it that way also gets us around Yoda's "Do or do not. There is no try."

The Poem that Took the Place of a Mountain

By Wallace Stevens

There it was, word for word,
The poem that took the place of a mountain.

He breathed its oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.

It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction,

How he had recomposed the pines,
Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,

For the outlook that would be right,
Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion:

The exact rock where his inexactnesses
Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,

Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
Recognize his unique and solitary home.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.