Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Longer Days

The light fades too early through the late fall. With a paucity of daylight I dole it out with great attention. I find myself plotting more.

When the solstice arrived Friday I secretly celebrated. The lengthening days, if only by drops, mean the Hendricksons are looking up from the cobble wondering when the combination of light, temperature and whatever else it is they're waiting for will be right. It's not close but it's coming.

Sunday I had to distract my brain and with holiday preparations as complete as they're going to be Ann suggested I go for a walk by a stream and taunt some trout.

It's the season of small flies and slack water. The zebra midge is the fly I tie on most this time of year though I probably should use it more during other seasons. A small Copper John gave weight to my rig.

A small stream by the house is one of my favorites. It's familiar in ways I never expected to know water. I've seen it thin and thick and everywhere in between. I've seen it transform from a stream of  Brookies to one with mostly Browns. I know some of it's secrets.

This stream winds north edging farmer's fields, burrowing under the highway, flowing beyond the bridges at Sandy Hook deep into melancholy.

Our church was empty last night. I know that sounds like a figure of speech but it's not. Christmas Eve at St. John's is a special time. It's a small church and is New England story book perfect. It's usually packed on Christmas Eve. Not last night.

Twenty people struggled to fill a space that'll hold eighty. I suppose that maybe there was too little joy in Sandy Hook to support caroling and the promise of a coming savior. More than anything the ninety minutes echoed the struggle towards normality -- a journey that I thought we had begun but which still seems to be out there somewhere.

Sunday's fishing was restorative. I dove into it with a focus that forced me to shunt aside all the stray thoughts that have occupied me lately and just be in the moment. I fished the likely spots with special attention to soft areas just off the main current. It yielded the desired results, mostly on the midge though a few took the Copper John. Where there was one, there was reliably a few more. Perfect winter fishing.

The first fish of the afternoon came in a new secret spot. It's a popular hole that got filled by a fallen tree during a spring storm. The channel is much nearer the bank now but the fishy water is still on it's far side. But through some chance act of geology and hydrology the larger fish hold in the thin near seam; a fact discovered by accident on a errant cast this past spring. Three on, one to the net. Winter's first trout.

I wandered a thin tributary for a few hours picking up trout in the likely spots and making hopeful casts to unlikely water. The trout cooperated in ways I had no right to expect. Perhaps some cosmic balance is possible. At least in the world of trout.

During this season I enjoy hearing David Sedaris' Santaland Diary reading on NPR. It ends as follows:
Tonight, I saw a woman slap and shake her crying child. She yelled: Rachel, get on that man's lap and smile or I'll give you something to cry about. Then she sat Rachel on Santa's lap and I took the picture, which supposedly means on paper, that everything is exactly the way it's supposed to be - that everything is snowy and wonderful.
It's not about the child or Santa or Christmas or anything, but the parents' idea of a world they cannot make work for them.
David has a way of painting amusing, dark pictures about the human condition but this struck me pretty hard when I heard it yesterday evening. In town we're going through the motions of Christmas service and present opening and caroling and family dinners. But life is still too raw to make if feel like anything but wallpaper covering something ugly; wrenching sorrow and an awful, harsh reality.

Sam just stopped by. He's very excited about his Christmas gifts and at thirteen I know he no longer harbors a belief in the magic of Christmas. But I sense that maybe there's still some of that wonder that can only be found in the young.

That's part of the journey we're all on. To find the wonder that we've lost. To restore the wonder that our children have had stolen. To break the cycle of gloom and once again to be able to look at each day as something more than to simply be survived. 

Longer days will help. Life is always more wonderful when the sun is shining. Especially when it's shining on a ribbon of water harboring trout.


  1. My thoughts are with you Z, your family and everyone in Newtown.

  2. Didn't realize you lived at the latest Ground Zero. A hard Christmas. We're thinking of you.

    1. Thanks Tom. It is with the support of friends and family that we're soldiering through the days.

  3. A beautiful post at this time of year. Thank you for writing it.

  4. That's as good a piece of writing as I've read in quite some time. Not the point, I know. But a good moment to be in.

  5. Very nice, Steve. Here's to longer days and shorter nights.

  6. I think that by anyone's standards, that this is the most poignant thing I've read or heard this holiday season. You have captured the feelings well my friend. No one that hasn't experienced can really judge otherwise. Peace and prayers for you and your neighbors as we wait for a better, longer day.

    1. Thanks Howard. The prayers and peace are most welcome.

  7. That was well said! Excellent words!