THE LAWSON’S PEAK BOOKS

Drought

The drought has been relentless, and in ways large and miniscule, devastating.

Though a bit of rain has fallen here and there since Tropical Storm Lee dropped in for tea, the ground soaked it up and barely noticed. North and west of here, it’s even worse. The damage in crops and such is staggering.

For myself, it’s been more spiritually oppressive. It’s been four months since I stood knee-deep in a caressing flow of wild, clear water. I haven’t gone that long in years. I’m drying out, and can’t seem to drink enough liquids to replenish myself.

I haven’t even renewed my fishing license since it expired at the end of June. That’s abnormal, even unheard of, for me. Just a barometer of the hopelessness the summer has sown.

My best friend was going camping in the hills this week. I debated going with him, but decided to hold out for the promise – if futile – of better weather and days. I haven’t heard back from him yet. I am envious. I need the escape in the worst kind of way.

I have a great many joys in my life, underscored by people and places and things. Where a free-flowing, crystalline creek nestled between the red-dirt hills studded with pines fits into them is very high. Still, sometimes I feel a need – selfish, or not – to shed it all and saturate myself with wildness that, if not untouched and unscarred, remains far superior to blazing-hot concrete, glass and steel.

Stillwater no longer satisfies me. I have grown bored with boats. Can you believe that? It’s hard for me to fathom, but it’s true. Cursed, I tell you, cursed! Ah, but such sweet agony…

I long for a trip along winding roads between hills smoothed by countless passings of eons, down to the creek bed and into the cleansing flow, because I am suffering also from a depression of dreams. The world is pressing down on me and I am feeling hopeless.

Time was not too long ago I loved to peruse my dreams via the Internet…delighting over pieces of land in the mountains where I imagined building a small cabin for Suzie and I, facing its porch to catch the sunset. I studied demographics and proximity to police, fire and medical care, because I must be pragmatic in my dreaming; much as I should like isolation and many miles between my abode and civilization, I must keep our safety and best interests in mind as we approach our golden years in whatever mountains we choose to call home somewhere down the road.

Yes, I familiarized myself with the rivers and streams of the Ozarks and the southern Appalachians more than any man 12-hours removed from them should fancy. I know their characters, their anxieties, their moods, so much as I can from afar. I know where the put-ins are, the access to the water.

I’ve hiked the end of the Appalachian Trail northward as far as I dared; pretty much completed the Ozark Highland Trail. In a burst of courage, even in imagination, I fished the Horseshoe at Abram’s Creek, the most treacherous mile of fly-fishing in all of Smoky Mountain National Park. I survived, by the way, and caught well.

But I haven’t done much dreaming lately. Washington has beaten me down; Wall Street has knocked the wind out of me. The dreams, already a long way until fulfillment, seem impossibly far now, if still extant at all. As I watch my depressingly meager savings contract and wither under the burden of political incompetence and the avarice of the markets, all those ambitions seem a mere speck on a distant horizon, barely discernible.

That’s why I need to find myself tucked in a slight gorge scoured anciently by a roaring rush of water over the long march of time. To let the water and the stone and the trees remind me what it is I’m working for, what I’m saving for, what I’m dreaming of. If I catch fish, all the better! They inspire me, the little spotted bass in their riverine environs, utter wildness, unadulterated by civilization and markets and politics.

So I maintain hope of rain, and replenishment. I know it’s hard to understand, but we each, I hope, have something that sustains us, that keeps us going when things get too tight. I need the sanctuary of wildness, if not wilderness. I need to shed the flak of civilization embedded in the pores of my skin, heal the shrapnel wounds of obligations, responsibilities and the ceaseless drone of clocks on the wall, ticking relentlessly down to my final hour.

If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. – Terry Tempest Williams

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