Some days unfold slowly, but listen carefully to catch their rhythm, and you may enjoy the tune. This morning, I wake to the sound of honking, as a squadron of geese reconnoiters the lake north of our house. Outside the bedroom window, the leaves of a maple burn red against an ashen sky. Across the yard, a mixed flock of robins and waxwings pick through the powdery-blue berries of two red cedars that flank the gravel drive, which flows through our property like a long set of rapids, opening into a wide pool.
The temperature fell into the thirties last night, and although the sun has risen above the tree line, it struggles to find a chink in the clouds’ dour armor. After stoking the woodstove, I pull on a sweatshirt and grab a cap from the rack by the door, bird song luring me onto the back porch.
Outside, a thin ribbon curls upward from the chimney. The smell of smoke hangs in the damp air. Weeds rise where tomatoes, peppers and squash once sprawled through the summer heat. Along the edge of the lawn, a few sparrows worry over a shriveled patch of wild daisies, black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace.
From the woodlot behind our house, a flock of turkeys fans out, scratching through the leaves as if in search of clues. Movement betrays three deer, their fur matching perfectly the dreary landscape, the does appearing to materialize along a line of barberries, their tongues somehow able to grasp the bush’s blood-red fruit while avoiding its thorns.
Trish calls from the kitchen window – breakfast is getting cold. Yet I linger, unwilling to let the morning pass. Like a song from my youth, I try to hum the melody, while searching for the words. Hands in the pockets of my jeans, the tips of my boots wet with dew, I stroll down to our little pond. The frogs of summer have fallen silent, the marsh plants withered and gray. A single dragonfly, perhaps the season’s last, hovers over the surface, but it’s slim pickings this time of year. Under the surface, out of sight, bluegills brood.
A mayfly flutters against the sullen clouds. Like a wisp of fog, the fragile creature hangs in the air before alighting on the sleeve of my sweatshirt, gray upon gray upon gray. I slip on my reading glasses for a better look at the insect’s dun-colored wings, tapered brown body and two delicate tails – a blue-winged olive. The tiny mayfly rises, carried from sight upon a sudden zephyr.
My mind drifts toward the stream, its water dark, bottom mottled with sunken leaves. The thought of slipping into a pair of waders makes me shiver. I rub my fingers, but it does not relieve the ache in the knuckles. My lower back also complains, having grown stiff in the damp air. The hike from the road to my favorite pool is a long one.
The stove will have heated the house by now, making it an ideal afternoon to tie a few flies, catch up on my reading, take a nap, maybe work on that essay that is overdue. But though the bracken and fern along the river’s banks may be brittle and brown, its wild fish remain forever young, and I know that within those cold waters a brown trout, its eyes on the surface, may yet sip a dry fly with dun-colored wings, a tapered brown body and two delicate tails cast long and fine.
From somewhere in the wood a crow caws. A moment later another answers. I wonder how the song ends.