Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Old Man

My kids made me music CD’s when they still cohabitated the house.  They were affectionately labeled “Old Man Mix”;at least I believe they were.   It was good stuff: Neil, Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Peal Jam, John Butler,  Ben Harper, Dylan, Marley, blending musical transitions of the years we shared.  Those mixes accompanied and still do many a road trip resonating most harmoniously with windows down, a waft of fresh cool air swirling about the interior, with the smell of fresh cut fields permeating the senses. 

Coincidentally, about the time these musical medleys emerged I encountered a mortal reconciliation.  Seated quietly among the flowing grasses and wildflowers on the banks of the Henry’s Fork waxing in the afterglow of a memorable morning, fully absorbed in the rivers encompassing beauty this disturbing contemplation eroded the tranquil moment; how many more years do I have left to fish these waters?  The thought set me upright, fractured any sense of contentment I was experiencing, left me perplexed, distracted and contemplating a timetable of life past and present.  I still vividly recall that moment.    

Not long after that, the reality of that intrusive thought sat before me; flesh and blood.  He was a rather distinguished gentleman with graying hair, full mustache with a shouldered slouch creeping into his once erect posture.  There was a hint of brightness to his eyes, but the realization of life’s mortality had eroded some of that.   His presence and our ensuing conversation affixed emotions of my own fresh ponderings.  As we talked, a mounting sadness permeated the room. 

My friend had come to the end of his fly-fishing life, a life once filled with vivid anticipation and adventure on the worlds waterways.  In his hands were his tools of the trade; rods, and reels of an era gone by, each with their own narrative, the test of time worn well into each unique piece.  A vest tattered lay limp across his nimble legs.  With sadness he handed these items over to me to sell, knowing that family nor friends would give them the considerations he felt they deserved.  Quietly I watched him leave, those encroaching thoughts resurfacing from that reflective morning.

Shortly after this, my father passed away.  It was expected, yet the suddenness of his demise challenged any preparedness for his departure.   Just before his passing, seated upon the bleached remains of a once towering cottonwood in a steady British Columbia rain, writing phone numbers in the mud in an effort to try and reach my father after he was hospitalized, made the distance between us infinitely long, yet I was thankful for the brief solace this country afforded me knowing what ultimately lay ahead.   What more fitting of a place to prepare for such matters, to garner life’s realizations, reflect upon a man you’d only come to truly know not all too long ago and in between ones own destiny. 
Much has changed in my life since that moment several years ago bathed in sunshine while contemplating life.    Fly-fishing now lends occasions to wander the world’s waterways with a more contemplative outlook, where the catching of fish is no less celebratory, but overall yields to a smaller gesture of fulfilling circumstance.  Given the fortunes of my time, each outing bears an enhanced significance, each wandering however brief more poignant, each fish appreciably unique more noteworthy.  Similar to the older gentleman who I had shared that introspective moment, there is a growing appreciation for time in general, especially time on the water, and to fish for the simple pleasure and solace it affords the just reward.  


Travis said...

Schmidty, sorry to hear of your father's passing. While only for a short moment it was a pleasure to have met him on the banks of the HF. He seemed to have a perpetual smile and many other traits which have been passed down to another great man. Again my condolences and wishing you and your family the best.

joseph b doyle said...

Hi steve,
greetings from Ireland.
Ifeel we have plenty in common both being mad into "Fly Fishing"and fishing in general.
I also lost my Dad this June and miss him dearly.You have my heartfelt condolences.
I came across your excellent blog by chance.It's a credit to you.
Alove of nature is a God given gift and should be enjoyed.
After all the great outdoors is to be treasured because it's free.I also enjoy photography as a hobby,and love capturing that moment in time, where I live in Ireland's south-east.A "Hardy perfect"like mine caught my eye on your page.A prized posession to be sure.

Pam said...

So beautifully written. I wish I had the eloquence to express as you do this chapter where life currently resides. Every day on the water lends itself to nostalgia and reflection, along with a small degree of sadness for the limited number of days to come. I'm sorry for the loss of your father.