Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trout Lake Report: Remembering Mark

I've been fishing. Life goes on, and for me fishing is a part of life.

It was for Mark, too, until he got too sick to do it. He had diabetes and he was an alcoholic, a deadly combination that finally caught up with him.

He moved out here two years ago after going through toxic shock and being on life support for three days. I hoped we could get things turned around. But a year after coming here he went into shock again. I found him in time to get him to a hospital, but once again he was on life support for three days. Doctors were advising us to make end-of-life decisions when Mark woke up, pulled the breathing tube out, and recovered.

How many times can you go through that? After that we got him set up in a place where someone could keep track of his meds and keep an eye on him to make sure it didn't happen a third time.

That lasted about two months. Mark had a cowboy streak in him, and he decided he didn't want anyone watching over him. He wanted his freedom, come what may, which by then meant freedom to drink. So he got himself kicked out--no drinking allowed there--and moved into an apartment in another town twenty miles away. Where he could be alone.

And that's how he died. Alone. There was finally a systems fail that even he couldn't come back from. But that's how he wanted it. He might say that he lived his life to the end on his own terms, diabetes be damned. And that might be the only thing he finally felt he had any control over.

I went fishing the Saturday after we got back from our trip. Mark was already dead, but nobody knew it yet. It was a hot evening. On the way in, there was a bull snake crossing the road.

As I geared up at the lake, tiger swallowtails were flitting from bloom to bloom.

The lake was quiet.

I tried everything I could think of, but the fish wouldn't come to the fly.

I finally stopped taking photos and concentrated on the fishing. The last time I hadn't caught a fish at Trout Lake was sometime in 2011, and I wanted to see the streak continue.

But it wasn't to be. Something ended. It was time to start over.

After dark I trolled back to the take out, and then took one more loop hoping for a last minute catch. It didn't come, but something else did. A light came over my right shoulder, a brilliant silver meteor. It drifted down slowly almost to the ridge top and then broke up in orange sparks.

The bright trail of its passing remained in my vision well after the darkness had returned. 

I heard of Mark's death on Sunday evening. Monday was spent at the funeral home, at the police station, and at Mark's apartment. Monday evening I went back to the lake.

It was calm and beautiful, and there were fish.

I had lots to think about as the shadows moved up the mountain.

I thought about all the places here Mark and I had been able to fish, including Trout Lake. He was there only once, but I was glad that I could feel his presence through those memories.

At dusk I headed back across to the truck. One more fish came to the muddler as I drifted it behind me.

I beached the float tube and stood up. That's when I heard it. One loon calling, one loon somewhere over there in the darkness of that remote bay beneath that mountain. It called three times, that long, mournful wail that goes right to the heart of you.

Then silence.

I hadn't heard a loon call at Trout Lake for a long time. I've been back since that night, and I haven't heard it since.


  1. There is nothing I can say. Very sad.

  2. A loons call is of peace and solitude.
    Perhaps someone speaks through it.

  3. Damn. Sorry for your loss. It seems that life is often harder than it needs to be. Even more so for some folks. Peace.

  4. So very sorry, Jim, at the passing of Mark. What a beautiful tribute to him, this post. All my thoughts to you and your family.

  5. Mark, Alan, Steve, Erin, thanks for your kind thoughts and expressions of sympathy. Much appreciated. And now there's more fishing to do.

    1. Jim, very touching and well done. As you just said, now we move on!