How sweet the sound

B and Rainier

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need is here.
And we pray, not for new earth or heaven,
but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear.
What we need is here.

~ Wendell Berry

Congratulations again to B (Sleepy) and Rainier, who got married Saturday. It was a beautiful day of hymns and vows, laughter and food, friends and family. Even without such a happy event, it would have been a wonderful day to hang out at the park overlooking a lake and green hills, the temperature hovering at or under 80, and so much summer sun. That we got to be there celebrating with the lovely couple and their great friends was truly a blessing.

As the day wound on, the sore throat I had had all week disappeared. I felt fine, it was just that I was having a harder and harder time making sound come out of my mouth when I spoke. The social nature of the day encouraged me to ignore the warnings and keep chatting. Yelling out encouragement and other exclamations during a game of croquet and having the ubiquitous “so, how do you know the couple?” conversations.

We went back to the hotel where the couple and many of their friends were staying after things wound up at the park and we spent a couple hours in someone’s room, playing random games and laughing and talking. Yes, more talking, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

By the time we finally hit the road, I really could no longer talk. My voice was gone. I had lost it. The drive back across the Twin Cities was very quiet, I had to turn the radio down if I wanted Rosie to hear my whispers.

I had been toying with the idea of fishing the Trico hatch early the next morning and, though in ways it felt entirely foolish, I thought that if I was unable to speak, a few hours where there was no one to talk to might be just the thing. So I set my alarm for 5:15 the next morning and went to bed.

Those early mornings are generally unpleasant, but having done it a few times now, I know that the rewards are worth it and the only thing you can do is keep moving forward. This was the first time I had done such a thing since we got Lola last fall, so that was a fun addition to the routine. While she ate breakfast, I made coffee.

Early to the eastIt was just after 5:30 when I left the house, amazed at how light it already was. I sped east on I-94, enjoying the light traffic and the sun rising over the land ahead.

Listening to the public radio program “American Routes” is a pleasant tradition on those early morning treks, as the fine show is relegated to the 5 – 7 a.m. slot around here. But this day, after hearing just a little bit of a segment about the Neville Brothers, including a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the radio went silent. I checked other stations, which were coming in fine, but nothing was airing on MPR. I decided that the silence might be a sign of some sort, or at least a coincidence worth considering in light of my own vocal troubles, so I kept the radio tuned into the nothingness.

Every five or 10 minutes, the show would restart and play a short bit, and then cut back out. It kept it up for the full half-hour it took me to get to the river.

There wasn’t anything happening when I walked down to the water. I wondered if the unseasonably cool (and beautiful) weather might have put off the hatch or something. So I stood on the bank above a hole that I had once come on boiling with fish devouring the tiny dawn mayflies (“A numbers game,” July 9, 2007) and just watched things.

The fly catchers and swallows were partying and my ears were filled with birdsong, my eyes with their swoops over the water and into the limestone cliff on the other side. That cliff kept the rising sun off the water and my spot on the bank the entire time I was there and I shoved my hands in my pockets against the chill of the morning and wished I had worn a long-sleeved shirt.

A quiet placeOccasionally I would look downriver and up into the air where the Tricos should have been doing their dance before descending to the water again and the first few times I didn’t see anything and then I did: the cloud of spinning and swirling bugs maybe 40 feet up against the backdrop of the bluffs downstream. This would happen.

I held my position on the bank, not bothering to fish. To do so would have been no small disrespect to just how good the imminent fishing could be and to the independent joys of the beautiful morning with the singing birds, the ascending sun, the lush mid-summer foliage. I let my mind wander, digesting the wedding the day before, the pre-wedding events the previous nights, and to all the things I only find time and energy to ponder streamside.

Then, a fish rose out in front of me. And a Trico flew by, heading upstream. And more fish rose and more bugs flew by and I figured it was probably time to start fishing, at least an hour after getting to the river.

So I fished and I caught a few good-sized trout on some very small flies. And, after a flurry of activity (literally, the small white-winged bugs were so thick flying past me at some points that it seemed like a snow flurry), it quieted and I fished a little longer and then reeled in and then decided to try one more pattern and I was glad I did because I caught another nice fish and then, tiring, left the river. I was back home by 11 a.m., exhausted and not well, but at peace and happy.

Streamside flowers

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