– and I’m not fretting when I’m fretting a Neil young tune :
I was staring at a pool cut off from the riffle by a fallen tree. I looked at the tail of the pool and the head of a truly red letter day. The light looked like a rainbow had been drawn out of the trees and punched into the pool by a giant blacksmith.
I had only caught chubs all day-but in the flow around the top of the tree, close to the other bank, I saw some rises. The problem, though, was that I brought my three-weight, five- foot rod for casting under the tree canopy in the tiny headwaters, so I couldn’t roll cast far enough to reach the rising fish with my elk hair caddis (now I almost only use wet flies in fast water for brook trout in small streams). I also didn’t bring waders or a little landing net.
I looked in and saw the creek was only about a foot deep off the bank, so I stepped in to get closer- and quickly sank up to my waste in the boggy bottom. I plodded my way a few steps and laid a cast down upstream in the flow near the end of the fallen tree- my rod came to quivering life! Plodding my way back to the bank with the boggy bottom sucking in my legs, I stripped line in and saw the shimmering reds, purples, greens and golds- the most beautiful, resplendent living thing I had laid eyes on in my life- then watched it wriggle away, leaving me in a sopping, muddy daze.
The brook trout is still the most beautiful thing living in the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and I’m still gleaning lessons from that first contact.
I encourage you to look at Norman Rockwell’s painting of freedom of speech; it is what I see when I think of that great and central freedom- and it’s worth keeping in mind in our time of big data when so much speech is vile and anonymous and not intended to make anything better. When you look at the painting you will see the courage that makes the exercise of this freedom a virtue: to speak is to take a stand. You should also notice that it takes place in a physical space within a community.
So, just as important as freedom is the importance of light. In fact you can’t have joy without both. If you lived near the edge of a cliff, you would probably still want the freedom to move as you pleased, but you would also want to see where you were moving. There is no freedom in fear. We need to be equally on guard and outspoken against infringements on freedom as we are against ignoble, soul-diminishing uses of freedom. What people really need to work on, though, is how to listen with the ear of a good neighbour, and that means being willing to bravely and humbly admit faults or lift up your voice.
So we have Provincial birds, flowers, and minerals- but no fishes! Let’s change that. I can only vote for my province of Ontario and I say the brook trout for cold water and the pumpkinseed for warm water. THAT’S my hedge and I’m sticking to it.