THE LAWSON’S PEAK BOOKS

Immersion

Try not to miss me too much next week!

It’s time for my much-needed, long-anticipated fall vacation. The weather is just ideal, and my psyche is desperate. I ain’t got but one nerve left, and I need to get away for a little while before someone gets on it.

My plans are loose, but definitely involve creek season. Imagine it! The nights are cool, the days are cool. The little spotted bass ought to be jumping straight into my shirt pocket, I won’t even need a fly rod. My best friend is taking the week off as well and camping in the hills. He’s been after me to camp with him for years now.

I don’t know. I haven’t camped in dang near a quarter century. I say “quarter century” because it sounds much more impressive than “nearly 25 years.” I want to emphasize the duration since I last slept on the ground rather than in a nice comfy bed.

I like the idea, though I’m not sure how it will pan out in practice. My hesitation kinda makes me feel like a hypocrite, or at worst, an armchair explorer of sorts. For all my pontificating about wildness and vanishing, I leave a comfy bed in the morning and return to one at night, no matter how far afield and off the beaten path I venture during the day.

My best friend, my brother, persisted in the immersion into the outdoors we once shared before I fell by the wayside. I don’t remember exactly why I stopped camping, but I think it had something to do with lack of a shower. I might get one of those camp showers if I go. It’s basically a five-gallon plastic bag with a shower nozzle. You hang it on a tree in the sun and the water gets heated.

I keep thinking about the things I loved about camping. The sounds of the woods at night, both glorious and unsettling. Sitting around a fire with a shared silver flask, the anticipation of the new day. Rising with the sun, and oh! The smell and taste of camp coffee, camp eggs and bacon sizzling in the morning air!

But I started coming down with a head cold or maybe a mild sinus infection. Smooth move, eh? My birthday is also Sunday, and I will turn 46. Perhaps that’s a good age to start camping again, I don’t know.

Mostly it’s about the solitude. The fishing, as I keep preaching to you, is secondary. Though I agree with Harry Middleton that there’s no true wilderness left in the lower 48, those hills north of here are at least moderately wild. The creek, last time I was there, is low and not moving very fast: It won’t be singing me to sleep but its flow is cool, nearly cold with the night’s chill. I think about camping, and whatever it is that makes me pause is swept away when I recall Robert Traver’s testament to why we go and why we do what we do:

“I fish because I love to,” Traver wrote. “Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; 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; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant – and not nearly so much fun.”

Whatever I do, most of it will be in the hills and near the creek. I am in sore need of divesting myself of all but the most select of human contact. No offense. It’s just the way it is. It’s why I cannot live in a city, or an apartment complex or a cozy little subdivision. I’d go stark raving mad.

Anyway.

You folks have a great week. I’ll try my best to do the same.

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