Well, hey there! Long time no see, eh?

Yes, I’ve been scarce of late. Overall, been pretty much a recluse far as I can manage to do so.

When I’m not here in this office, I usually find myself in my favorite reading spot or writing any one of three currently in-the-works novels. When weather, time and finances permit, I’m traipsing across stone and white sand and through cold water away from the sound of human voices other than those I want to accompany me, downstream or up, in search of solace.

At no point in this nearly 33-year career do I think I’ve gone so long without pontificating profoundly or inanely in a written column. I should have seen the signs creeping up on me like the first symptoms of a head cold or the flu. It started a year ago, maybe more. Weariness. A blank stare when I sat and stared at the blinking cursor on the white backdrop of an open word processor document. Sure, I’ve had bouts of writer’s block before. But not like this.

It seems that, completely by surprise, I’ve lost the spirit for it. The words don’t come easily as they used to. It may be because my attention has diverted and focused to the novels, something I had not tinkered with in more than two decades. I’m finding incredible satisfaction in them; flexing creative muscles that I didn’t recall I ever had.

More than that, I’m tired of squabbling with the powers-that-be to no real effect. Over the years I’ve said repeatedly that I am merely a single voice crying in the wilderness; a lone champion of issues and causes can easily be ignored. And pardon me if I sound a bit severe, but I’m done singing solo if nobody else wants to join the choir.

So what’s left? Plenty! But the things that ignite my passions now are rather alien to most of the folks around here.

Just last weekend I took ownership of my second bamboo fly rod by esteemed maker Harry Boyd of Winnsboro. I could write about how my first awkward casts with that little five-weight wand awakened its magic, and I could feel the fish in it even there on the lawn of Harry’s front yard. I could describe how it glowed under coats of varnish, how the guides were wrapped in red thread with yellow accent tipping, Chitimacha colors. How the rod sang as Harry coached my inadequate casting skills just a notch higher.

But few here would understand.

I could speak of how three weeks ago three of us went far north to a lonely creek in the middle of a pine forest and caught fish after fish after fish in the early morning haze. Yet who among you, Faithful Readers, know that this is a rare and wonderful thing on a creek that is beautiful and serene but grudging with its favors, far more often miserly than generous? Who among the congregation understands that the fish are an afterthought to the hills, stone, sand and water?

Maybe this is just a phase. I don’t know. But I just don’t have anything else to give except the passions, and the words are the springs that are born of the aquifers of passion. Anything else is just filling white space on newsprint.

Then there’s the other Harry. The one I have spoken of so often. Harry Middleton, perhaps the finest writer I have ever read, and the most tragic. Often I have explained how I empathize with Harry, know the dark corridors and depths to which depression sinks the soul. They have neither cause nor origin; they merely are.

But those days they are rare and fleeting. Oh, there are times when the national politics makes me want to cry. There are days when I can hardly stand to read the news that is my bread and butter. On those occasions I just want to retreat farther upstream, around the next bend, to see if there is enlightenment at the headwaters as well as sanctuary.

No, I’m not complaining. Quite the opposite. I’m pretty content, all things considered. Not that there aren’t “wants.” There always will be. But mostly I’m at peace, insulated from the demolishers, secluded from the ravishers. Me and Suze and Bogie share a comfortable slice of space in relative bliss. Our orbits mingle and our landscapes converge, and a river runs through it. It may be a theoretical river now; but one day it will be real.

I am in a happy place. Certainly, I wish I was retired, wish I had more time to indulge my passions, wish the call of the mountains was immediately answerable. But I put tomato plants in the flower bed in the backyard and they’re starting to bear. We sit on the front porch I built nearly three years ago and watch the hackberry, pecan and magnolia trees sway in cool spring breezes. The sycamores are growing like bad weeds again, and so are the persimmons and the lone ash tree that survived the initial planting of three. Hummingbirds are visiting the feeders and Suze found a carpenter bee trap—and the correct bait—that really works.

So there it is. Not much to say anymore that I haven’t said too many times already. What sparks the little switches in my brain have nothing to do with greed, intolerance, injustice, corruption or incompetence. The charge that keeps the neurons firing is different now. As Robert Traver wrote, “Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience.”

If there has ever been any art at all in these words—and I hope there has, it’s what I’ve worked for—then like a painter, a sculptor, a composer, a musician, it comes from the passions. If every score Mozart ever wrote sounded the same, there’d be no magic in them. No soul.

I look at my trilogy of memoirs and I am astounded I didn’t see the story spanning across them. From Native Waters where I mourned the loss of family and a way of life extant for thousands of years; to The Great Sadness where I noted that some things can’t be saved, some things are irretrievable. Then to the final volume, Carry Me Away, titled in homage to Middleton, who “let the water carry me away. Carry me away.”

Three memoirs is a load of vanity for a man who hasn’t turned fifty yet. I wonder sometimes if that’s the end of the story. If there’ll be any more memoirs. If I’ve nothing left to say. Not so much that I’m bereft of events, happenings, thoughts or diatribes. But I think those three books lead up to the dividing line in the halves of my life, perhaps not in duration but certainly in spirit. Perhaps I have reached an eventide, some transformative milestone along the way.

There’s plenty of columnists on this page who can hammer the politicos; a couple that can tickle the funny bone and one or two that provide great historical insights. I’m not saying I’m done, but for now, I choose the road less traveled.

2 comments to Eventide

  • Dan Sears

    Said it all my friend.

  • Brad Pillaro

    I understand, My son and I made our first exploratory trip to the Push, last week. My son only caught one, but oh that cool,clear water is good for the soul.

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