Some days unfold slowly. Listen carefully and you may catch the rhythm, enjoy the tune. This morning, I woke 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 burned red against an ashen sky.
A long gravel drive connects our home with the macadam road that passes by our twelve acres. It drops down between a pair of tall cedar trees like a set of rapids that opens into a wide pool beside our house. Still standing at our bedroom window, I watch a mixed flock of robins and waxwings picking through the powdery-blue berries of the two arborvitaes.
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 dour armor of the clouds that moved in overnight. In the kitchen, I make myself a mug of tea. After stoking the woodstove, I pull on a sweatshirt and grab a cap from the rack by the door. Bird song lures me onto the back porch.
Outside, a dark ribbon curls upward from the chimney. The smell of smoke hangs in the damp air. 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. In the higher branches of the surrounding hardwoods, finches gossip about the dank weather.
From the woodlot behind our house, a flock of turkeys have fanned out. They are scratching through the leaves as if in search of clues. Movement betrays three deer, their fur matching perfectly the dreary landscape. The does appear 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 the earthen dam that holds back a small pond located along the edge of the woodlot. 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, mahogany body, and two delicate tails. A blue-winged olive, it rises from my arm, carried from sight upon a sudden zephyr.
My mind drifts toward the stream, its water dark, bottom mottled with sunken leaves. I shiver at the thought of slipping into a pair of waders. Rubbing my fingers fails to relieve the ache in the knuckles. Having grown stiff in the damp air, my lower back reminds me that the hike from the road to my favorite pool will be a long one.
The stove will have heated the house by now, making it an ideal day 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 may be brittle and brown, the little stream’s wild fish remain forever young, and I know that under these dark skies, within those cold waters, on this damp afternoon, a brown trout, its eyes on the surface, may yet be willing to sip a dry fly with dun-colored wings, a tapered brown body and two delicate tails if only cast long and fine.
From somewhere in the wood a crow caws. A moment later another answers. I wonder how the song will end.