THE LAWSON’S PEAK BOOKS

Solastalgia

Solastalgia. It’s been defined as something you feel when, instead of leaving home, home leaves you.

Hurricane victims after Katrina and other storms understand this; the people of Bayou Chene understood this, and I understand it all too well.

“Home” has been leaving, vanishing, for a long, long time now. The basin is drying up; Grand Avoille Cove and Lake Fausse Pointe are slowly diminishing from siltation. The woods and fields and landscapes of home are being altered and swept away.

Perhaps that’s what may explain my need to make journeys. I think about home, the home of my childhood, and waves of depression sweep over me. When I could stand on Charenton Beach and not see across Grand Lake. When the cove ran four or five feet deep, and Fausse Point much more than that. When there were places to walk in the woods or along a cornfield, with quail thick as mosquitoes, and we didn’t have to lock our doors at night.

I am rooted to this land not in terms of years or decades, but of millennia. But it is no longer the “home” it was. It gives me less and less each year of the peace it did before. So I journey to find that solace.

We arrived creek side Saturday morning. It was foggy when we left Charenton, fitting somehow: The mist seemed to obscure details, and behind it, I thought I could almost see to how it used to be. But by the time we reached the hills north of here, “home” was far behind and out of mind.

This particular creek was a crapshoot. I didn’t know what to expect. There had been no rain in a couple of weeks, and only recently ice and snow had pummeled it. But I was surprised and delighted to find it running strong, swift and gin-clear.

Make no mistake, though I rigged up my fly rod I did not expect to catch a fish. It’s far, far too early in the year. I came to this place hours and hours north because the winter had been too long, I needed comfort. Comfort home can no longer give.

My best friend was there, camping, and we all walked down to the creek. I expected the water to be quite cold, but it was actually tolerable. I waded wet, in shorts and sandals. Scott and I took off one direction, Suzie the other, upstream. How clear the water was! It was brisk and chill and exuberant. I have not been to a creek since mid-October. That is far, far too long.

So we fished, and talked, and shared a flask. We smoked stogies, because as Norman Maclean once noted, “One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only a floating ash.” We made a journey more than we fished, traveling far, far downstream and around all the little white-sand beaches of the creek. Above, the landscape was gray and brown and spent by winter’s harsh blows. But the creek was the life of the moment, tugging playfully at my ankles and calves.

And I realized then that I was not feeling loss. The surroundings may have been vastly different from those I grew up with, but they offered me the consolation home can no longer muster. Certainly, my old house is a comfort, having been in the family since it was built in the mid-1800s. Of course, friends and family are soothing, and I have better than I deserve. There are many things about home that bear celebration.

But this…this belonging. This incredible sense of place and being. I don’t have that anymore here. My native waters are drying up. Basket canebreaks are rare as hen’s teeth these days. There’s no more cornfields. Few, scattered covies of Bobwhites.

There, in those rolling hills and clear, cool creeks. I find myself again. The succor I gain there is immeasurable.

We spent the whole day. No fish. Not so much as a notion of a fish. It didn’t matter. My solastalgia was, at least for a time, cured. I got home late Saturday night, but it’s really three, four days before I completely come back. Because for days I close my eyes and I see the stream and the bluffs and the hills; even, sometimes, with eyes wide open, they are superimposed over my corneas. It takes me many nightfalls and sunrises to relocate my whole self here again, and find whatever repose home has left to offer its restless, desperate son.

Meanwhile, my dreams are filled with wildness, places if not wilderness at least offer a patch of isolation, a hint of purity, where I can hide for a time.

2 comments to Solastalgia

  • Gordon Bryson

    Glad you had a good trip. I’ll get to tying some of those Briminators up in the next few days. It’s sad to see old haunts such as you describe and that we shared in your first book that are no longer the same. Change is inevitable, but not necessarily acceptable.

  • Glenn Albrecht

    I was in Louisiana earlier this year and loved it. The USA summer has been brutal and I hope the environment has been resilient. Your understanding of solastalgia is spot-on so thanks for seeing how relevant it is. I hope that it can become irrelevant … but that seems unlikely at the moment. Keep in touch about what is happening in your part of the world … I feel close to it although I am so far away.

    Glenn.

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