Well. Whaddaya think about this?
Less than a week ago we were freezing our britches off, and today, weíre in the mid-seventies and our short sleeves. Beats all you ever saw, eh?
I am pleased to report that I made it through both freezes with no broken pipes due to my diligence with turning the water off and back on again.
Also, I am pleased to report that I made it through both freezes with no broken teeth from chattering like crazy. I hate cold.
But here we are and the weather is downright balmy. They used to call such spells of warmth in the dead of winter like this, "Indian Summer" but of course, thatís like saying a cold spell in the middle of July is "White Folks Winter." Politically incorrect, so weíll just drop it there.
Makes me want to jump in the boat and go visit the lake, but I havenít yet. I know itís all a trick, of course. When I let my guard down, open my doors and windows to let the pleasant air inside, wham! It will instantly drop to 20 degrees and theyíll find me frozen to my recliner days later. Pity the fool who trusts the guile of winter.
As the year draws near to closing, I think about how much has gone by. You know, this year I was a star for exactly 44 minutes (thatís two 22-minute episodes of Fly Fishing America) and every now and then someone who hadnít seen it before catches it in repeats and sends me a congratulatory e-mail or phone call.
Well, itís too early to do a "year-end" column, so Iíll drop that, too. But with the weather forecast downright pleasant for the extended outlook, Iím thinking I need to get off my duff and do something constructive.
Last weekend I cleaned the shop. Now, the shop is actually what used to be a breezeway off the house. Later, my grandparents converted it into a shop to sell their crafts. But being an extension of the house, I try to keep it clean so as little as possible migrates into the living areas, but it is a shop after all, and a shop thatís too clean is like a fish with no slime. Like a dog that smells perfumey. You get the idea. Itís very nature is at stake here.
Anyway, I swept, moved all the stuff on the floor around and vacuumed sawdust and such up. It came out right nice, but itís still a shop and has a pleasant smell of cypress sawdust, a little glue, and a smidgen of epoxy.
When I was done with that, I got the dog, my hat, a cold one and a stogie and headed down to the bayou to watch the sunset. Itís our favorite time of day, as you well know, and we waited for a pair of wood ducks to fly by like they do most every evening.
Now thatís constructive.
I also gave myself a Christmas gift, a new fly rod, and have been spending some time with it in the yard working on my casting. My neighbor is having a pool installed, and his workers probably find meÖcurious. I guess that is because I amÖcurious. I mean, how do you explain to someone why youíre casting a fly rod on the grass Ė where there are clearly no fish Ė with no hook on the end of the leader?
"Itís an Indian thing," I could say, but of course it isnít, because fly rods originated in Scotland.
"Itís a Scotch thing," I could try, but then theyíll just think Iíve been hitting the Chivas too hard.
"Iím trying to cast the whole line," might be a logical explanation, but tackle fishermen donít understand this, either. A fly line is 90-110 feet long, a regular monofilament fishing line is hundreds of yards long.
"I am a dweeb and a maroon," I could say, and that would pretty much sum it up to everyoneís satisfaction.
Of course, author Reg Baird once noted, "Whoever said money canít buy happiness never bought himself a good fly rod," and someone I donít recall the name of noted, "If people concentrated on the really important things in life, thereíd be a shortage of fly rods."
I thought of all this while the dog and I were sitting by the bayou, watching it flow, waiting for the wood ducks to fly by. I light a short cigar, my only remaining tobacco vice that I indulge in a couple times a month. The sun is setting to my left, inching toward a jagged horizon of cypress tops and throwing dragonís breath of red, orange and pink across the sky.
And I think of my own mortality in such moments, moments where it seems like a crinkled leaf floating downstream to some faraway destination is the most beautiful thing Iíve ever seen; that if I donít look behind me for long enough, thereíll be no houses, no roads, no phones and bills on the counter and clocks to dictate my life; I flick gray ash from the tip of the H. Upmann and realize that Norman Maclean was right, one of lifeís 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.
Herein lies the soft, caressing regret that lingers in my soul: That all of this will go on, forever really, and I wonít be going along with it at some point. The dog comes and nuzzles my hand for a petting, and her wide-eyed, tail-wagging adoration makes me laugh out loud, and the laugh floats downstream in pursuit of the leaf, the ash. What Iíll remember most achingly, if there is a hereafter to remember from, wonít be first paychecks or first publications; not career moments or even first lovesÖitíll be twilights on quiet waters. Itíll be mist hanging low under cypress trees, and wisps of spirits passing through them, unseen except for the eddies they leave in the flog.
But I look behind me, and nothingís changed. I call the dog and we make our way back to the house. Despite her age, she dances circles around my feet as I walk, surprising me with her sudden enthusiasm. She feels it, too: The twilight. The dragonís breath. The creation of something beautiful. She lives in the moment, no thought of present or pass.
Would that I could be so brave. If only.