A Matter of Time

March 18, 2024 By: Bob Romano

Yellow trout lilies ~ Image by J. Carrol Sain

I suppose it’s a matter of time. Time for Trish to pack away the winter decorations, time for her to clean the windows, and give our old house a good scrubbing. Time to bake the ham and a batch of cookies before Emily flies in from Texas to spend Easter with her parents. Time for me to stack the cordwood I’ve been splitting all winter. Time to evict the families of field mice that have made their homes in the birdhouses scattered around our twelve acres. Time to start up the lawn tractor after a hard winter has passed.

Time to clean my reels and fly lines, time to polish my rods. Time to inspect the little plastic boxes that contain a lifetime of flies, and perhaps to tie a few more before the season begins in earnest. Time to kick off my boots, turn up the radio, and brew a mug of tea while Tom Waits sings that song, the one that always brings a tear to my eye.

Time to scratch under the dog’s chin. There always time for that.

Time, once again, for those of us living in the northeast to shed our winter clothes as mother earth tilts toward the sun. Time for her to heal the wounds we’ve inflicted, if it’s not already too late. Time for our country to repair the fracture that threatens to topple it from within.

And on this night before the Vernal Equinox, slouched here in my easy chair beside the woodstove, the wind outside howling like a ghostly parade floating through a Connemara graveyard, I’m hoping for time to accompany the young dog stretched out by my feet through garden and woodland and along the bank of a stream, time to roll with him in the grass, to feel his wet tongue against my ear.

Time to follow the progression of snow drops, daffodils, and tulips Trish planted soon after we moved into this house where we’ve lived the better part of our adult lives. Time to dig my fingers into the warm earth, to plant my peas and radishes, lettuce and spinach, parsley and oregano.

Time to listen to the robin’s early-morning song, the cardinal’s evening refrain; the white-throated sparrow calling for Mr. Peabody, and the phoebes repeating their names from the highest perches they can find. Time to hear the dun-colored tits gossip about their winter adventures and the bluebirds’ sweet chatter as they inspect the previous year’s nests.

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Hoping for time to trod along the familiar footpath, the one that winds down to Bonnie Brook, the little mountain stream not far from our home, the one of which I am so fond. Time to kneel once again among the violets and bluets, stroll through the masses of trout lilies and Mayapples that stretch into the wood from either side of the trail. And farther back, under the shade cast by hemlock and oak, time to search out bloodroot, and between the wild rhododendron and mountain laurel, Solomon’s Seal, and looking harder, maybe a few delicate trilliums and even a lady slipper or two.

There must be time to stop beside the stream where the variegated leaves of skunk cabbage are breaking through the soil and colonies of coltsfoot spread over the cobble shoals. Time to feel the sun, warm again, on my neck and against my face. Time to hold the little cane fly rod crafted by the Pennsylvania rod-maker, the late George Mauer, whose time on the water was cut much too short. Time to reflect upon my own life and how it has drawn me here, to this place at this moment.

Time again, to feel the current, its force once more testing the strength of my calves. Time to cast a fly along a dark seam, and to feel that pull from under a moss-covered bank, time to set the hook and to briefly hold a brook trout in the palm of my damp hand.

But most of all, I need time to wander around that next bend, the one I didn’t make it to last season, and then, if I’m lucky, perhaps to the one beyond that.