Monday, April 26, 2010

Blogging His Birthday Party

    What with bad weather and all, celebration of my mere 84th. birthday came a cropper. But the weather will clear and those good birthday relatives will soon find their way here for dinner one way or another.
     In the meantime, I have begun to fantasize on the theme of an extravagantly impossible big 85th. party, here on the side of Lovers’ Hill, right smack down in this house in my grandfather’s back yard, where once he very nearly went to jail for fighting cocks. Ah! the baggage of antique memory.
Anyway, I think I should like to build a guest list of those who have welcomed the stuff I’ve written over the past twenty years-- and even read it.
    In my fantasy, these various good people would gather here late of an April afternoon to greet one another around a simple board, in the center of which is a wheel of what I believe to be the finest cheddar made, washed down with a good amontillado sherry or a dipper from a steaming bowl of bloody red sangria-- and hunks of fine warm bread. (coffee and beer in the kitchen for the needy)
    But, my chief-most offering would be the guests to each other, each to the other’s great pleasure. The trouble is that the guest list grows and grows and keeps on growing. At what point does it become impossible? When the company spills down the stairs, out into the street, all over the deck, stacking up in corners, what to I do then? This huge mass of angling humanity to whom I am so indebted?
    I dare not begin to list them here, all those whom I so admire. I'd like to bring them to Boulder where we can all meet and celebrate the astonishing, impossible fact of our being together. Will there ever have been such a gathering of angling people?
    I should want my kids from New Jersey on the one hand and California on the other to be here so that they can see for themselves what a marvelous bunch of people could be conglomerated on the occasion of their father’s birthday.
    I should think that all these guests would fall to the spirit of the day and wish each other, every one, a Happy Birthday, whenever it is.
    Then, and I shudder to see it, suddenly here come all those readers of The Bouldercreek Actor, all those dear friends and readers who in one way or another practice theatre crashing the party. Not to be kept away, they are sure to leaven the crowd and give it tone. They arrive as in a phalanx of the imagination and drama.
    Then, just when things are going strong, some one will call for “order”. When there is quiet and order established, in honor of the master Vince Marinaro, the noted baritone Patrick Mason will sing “The Song of the Letort Spring Run”, verses of mine and the great Ernest Schwiebert and composed by John Patrick Thomas. With this bit of music, in the spirit of the Milkmaid’s song in Walton’s Angler, we will bond the excellence of art to our angling. It will be everyone’s portion, right along with the cheese and sherry.
    I shall, in advance, have asked one particular guest to offer a Resolution to the company, because that is what the party will have become: the first and probably last plenary session of THE WHOLE AND ANCIENT COMPANY OF ANGLERS-- and fully competent to conduct its business.
    Therefore, following the song, Ms. Velma Biddle will, in her one hundred and second year, rise to move the motion, a Resolution for the Day. I cannot imagine what it might be, but I know that, from Velma, it will be exquisitely appropriate. Following her presentation of the Resolution, someone will move that the motion not be debated or amended. With that agreed upon, he will move a unanimous ballot, and the Resolution will be passed to general cheers and rejoicing-- clear out into the street where the sherry has reached.
    Betty, who in this virtual world did not have to labor at preparations, will be free to welcome and debrief everyone. Me, I shall sit quietly beside Velma, watching everyone enjoying everyone, and wondering at the power of language, and hooks and lines, sherries and cheeses, but most of all, wondering at this collection of people who glow so richly human-- in honor of the day they were born and were given to fish and read, and be together.
     As you read this, please know that your presence is requested next April 26, 2011, at this virtual birthday party, digital as it will be, deep in the secrets of this machine. Yes, it will be nothing less than The Whole and Ancient Company of Anglers-- (with actors and hangers-on). Do plan to come.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

And Trout Were Rising
    The day was gorgeous- down on Boulder Creek-- in the center of town where I was to show off Tenkara fly fishing tackle to any who cared to drop by. And about fifteen did. A remarkable event, it seemed to me. I showed them how to extend the rod to eleven feet and to attach the eleven foot line to it. I have thought that method and act of attachment to be just plain “charming” and so did they. I showed the rig’s casting versatility on the creek and gave everyone a chance to try it. As a friend has put it, Tenkara fishing is so “new, different, and old”.
    But the point I want to make is that the whole event was new, different, and old. These people were so cordial, open, friendly, and gently eager. I can’t remember quite the same sort of gathering , that sort of behavior among anglers. They were eager but patient, reticent but persistent, friendly with a slight formality, really smart but modest, everyone of them bringing some personal excellence, for which I had to pry to learn. This is not the way right down regular post-modern people on the make are expected to behave in this day and age. They stayed an hour. I was exhilarated.
    The thing is, dear reader, that this is but another bit of evidence that things have changed in fly fishing. It is indeed the Sixth and New Period in American fly fishing. Anglers are renewing themselves, refreshing themselves. And, most of all, looking for and craving simplicity. The strains of economic recession, wars and rumors of wars, even a volcanic cloud out of Iceland have tended to turn us inward, to find a new habitation for the spirit, nearer to the heart’s desire.
    Some have said that Tenkara partakes of Zen in its processes. I’m wary of such claims and doubt this one, but, that said, there is in Tenkara the possibility of discovering a new sort of complexity, but now, in simplicity. A deep complexity in that which is simple-- what the artist is working at, forward and back, in and out. I must not claim too much for something as basic and old-- and different and new-- as Tenkara. But there it is….
    It leads us, I think, to the conclusion that we have “profited” as much as we can and are now moved beyond the largely mechanical complexities of the TU Period with its competitions, anxieties, and great power. It’s over. Now the flicking, gentle cast of the Tenkara fly is a modeling of the new sensibility.
    And if that is hard to believe, you should have been on the creek that day to see that new sensibility clearly manifest in those fifteen New Period anglers throwing that hookless fly-- as good trout sipped at the surface.