Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Walt

Walt Whitman has been a great influence on me, as someone who celebrated life, the joy of simple things, and the value of all living creatures, unflinchingly spoke the truth as he perceived it, and called out the hypocrisy and oppression of societal dogmas. I remember discovering him when I was a young college student in the turbulent late Sixties, and it was like a rope to a drowning man. I have fond memories of reading Leaves of Grass one beautiful Spring, out loud, savoring every word.

Happy birthday, Walt. May there be many more like you.

This text is from the The Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of Walt Whitman (books by this author), born in West Hills, Long Island, New York, in 1819. He worked as a printer, and then a journalist. During the 1860s, Whitman worked as a clerk for the government, although he was fired from his job at the Indian Bureau when the director found out he'd written a collection of "indecent" poetry; Leaves of Grasswas published in several editions beginning in 1855, and was controversial for its frank treatment of sex and sexuality.

Whitman loved transportation and transportation workers; he would ride the ferry endlessly, going back and forth for the sheer pleasure of it. In his poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," he wrote:
"Now I am curious what site can ever be more stately and admirable to me than my mast-
hemm'd Manhattan,
My river and sun-set, and my scallop-edg'd waves of flood-tide,
The sea-gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and the belated lighter."
He enjoyed great camaraderie with the omnibus drivers and conductors, and he'd ride the whole length of their route just for the company. He got in the habit of visiting the Brooklyn Hospital to look in on these friends when they were injured. As the Civil War got under way, he began to see more and more wounded soldiers filling the hospital beds, and he would listen to their stories, write letters for them, and give them gifts and whatever measure of comfort he could offer, "to help cheer and change a little the monotony of their sickness and confinement," he wrote. He became friends with the doctors and even assisted them in surgery from time to time.
In December 1862, his brother George's name appeared in the list of war wounded, and Whitman left New York to journey to Virginia. After a search of 40 hospitals and a trip to Fredericksburg, he found his brother, who had suffered only a mild facial wound. But Whitman couldn't turn away from the horribly maimed soldiers, "a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, &c., a full load for a one-horse cart," he wrote in his journal, "human fragments, cut, bloody, black and blue, swelled and sickening." He stayed in Washington to help the wounded and dying soldiers, Union and Confederate alike; he wanted to be their arms and legs, often staying late into the night, moving between the rows of cots to offer a comforting touch. "What an attachment grows up between us, started from hospital cots, where pale young faces lie & wounded or sick bodies," he wrote; "The doctors tell me I supply the patients with a medicine which all their drugs & bottles & powders are helpless to yield." Whitman visited tens of thousands of soldiers through the course of the war, and he developed close friendships with several of the men, particularly a young Confederate soldier from Mississippi. He took a job in the Army paymaster's office, and used whatever little money he could spare to buy gifts for the soldiers. He also wrote poetry about the war, but about the after-effects of battles, not the battles themselves. His collection Drum-Taps was published in 1865 and was eventually incorporated into a later edition of Leaves of Grass.
He was in New York, recuperating from exhaustion, when the Confederate Army invaded the capital, and he was there again, visiting his furloughed brother George, when the war ended and Lincoln was assassinated. At his mother's house, he wrote, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" for the fallen president:
"Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep'd from the ground, spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards,
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin."

The Next Round of Athletic Glory

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No more soccer.

Lidia will probably still mess around with her friends at the soccer field.

But Isaiah is moving on. Summer basketball started last week, and Spring Practice for high school football begins today. Ah, the big time.

He even got a new haircut. He wouldn't have, but he bet with one of the coaches that the Bulls would beat the Heat in the playoffs. He lost, so he had to get himself a mohawk.

He was vigilant,  making sure that Mom didn't get carried away.

Looks good. Bring on the next round of athletic glory.

Trout Lake Report: In the Groove

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Monday afternoon saw me rolling into a launch site at the channel, the first time I've fished the channel this year. Most of the weekend campers had already left, and it looked like this flooded campsite, right at one of my favorite access points, had not been used.

The high water makes a long channel through the willows to the lake, like an entrance to an enchanted land.

It was blowing hard when I arrived, and thunder was rolling over the east ridge, but it wasn't long before the weather passed on, the lake calmed, and the fish started working. I started working, too, tying on one of these newly-tied Flashback Hare's Ear nymphs.

I moved across the channel trolling the nymph, and halfway across this fish took it.

I set up just across the mid-point of the channel, affixed an indicator, and started working the groove, the middle of the channel where that first fish was, and where most of the risers were working.

I caught fish. The wind kicked up again for awhile, but when things calmed down I caught more fish. I took a break and a stretch, paddled out again and caught more fish. I considered tying on a dry--for a fleeting moment--cast out the Hare's Ear and indicator again, and caught yet more fish.

I was in the groove.

I netted three more fish that flipped off my lap or out of my hand before I could get a photo. I kept it up until almost dark, and didn't even change flies until late when my forceps completed the destruction of that original well-chewed Hare's Ear.

It was hard to quit. The momentum is strong in the groove. But the fish gradually faded away in the darkness, and the channel rested. So I faded away, too. And when I take my rest I'll dream about the next time I'm lucky enough to find my way into the groove.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day, 2011

Gerardo Mena is a decorated Iraqi Freedom Veteran.  He spent six years in Special Operations with the Reconnaissance Marines and was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a V for valor for multiple acts of heroism while under enemy fire.

Remember not only those who lost their lives, but also those who live with the wounds of war.

Gateway to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Information

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Perfect Memorial Day Weekend Afternoon

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Here's how it's done: Fish for little bluegills on worms you dug yourself the day before, catch little bluegills, swim, do it some more; listen to distant thunder and worry that you might have to go home early; rejoice and jump in the water again when the sun comes out from behind a cloud; get out of the way of those big, shiny bass boats, but not too fast; tell the guys in the boats they could have stayed here and caught fish right off the dock; feel good when you find out you've caught more fish than they did; fish and swim some more; then give all your fish to Juan and Brian and Fernando to take home to their Mama, who loves to fry them up nice and crispy.

Click for animated photo sequence.


Fun With FX

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guess Where I'd Like To Be On June 18

Link here: Henry's Fork Day XXVII. Thanks to In the Back Eddy for the heads up on this. If any of you go, let me know how it goes, and if you win the Clackacraft.

Trout Lake Report: Open Window

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I find a window in the rain; it was raining before I got there, and it's raining now. Cool. No, let me rephrase that: cold; still not time to put the long johns away. Windy, then calm, then windy again. Played with an indicator and some dries, but to no avail. First fish takes a trolled beadhead green thing. Leaves no doubt as to her gender. Sheds a tear? Second fish takes same fly as I'm hurrying over to where swallows and a big pod of fish are actively feeding on top; I'm impatient. Swallows pick up my Callibaetis dry many times before third fish finally takes it away from them. Long troll back through the pitching waves; nothing but cold feet--and a smile.