Winter, with her drapings of snow, curtains of north wind and blankets of ice to freeze ponds and pines, is near. She is challenging sportsmen kicking withered leaves against breaths of cold air and long nights. Wood stoves are replacing beach fires as daylight shrinks behind bare tree shadows.
E.B. White gave us
“Oh, they are lovely trees that wait in the still hall of winter.”
Indeed we wait, store gear and thoughts then rush through calendar pages to restore a balance of light and dark but there will be no rushing what we cannot control, a reality to lament as we turn to look back one last time.
One last look at a weak and rusty hasp, brushed with salt patina, as we close the barn doors. Before snow blows in, before someone eyes our treasure, we push trailers carrying our escapes into dark rest homes. Rain and creatures surely will creep in as cold thins blood and grains. Left in a lonely room, a dog with her ears back, there are no lights to warm a wooden skiff or canoe through December, January, February, March and maybe, if the ides do not fare thee well, into the first weeks of trout season.
They carried us away, towards points on a compass, down small streams and across ponds. Winter waits, but not for long, so we burned around their edges, suffocating them with artificial snow blankets, sealing them from the elements and our appreciation. Often, we don’t need to go far to get somewhere else and boats do that for us.
One last look at rolls of fiberglass on shelves matted to cans of resin but now the air is wrong for repairs. Canoes, desperate for attention, unintentionally relegated to the three year plan, must wait. Upside down, pinned by blue tarps, they will be there for us when red winged black birds call and some first thin asparagus stretches for light.
One last look at tired dogs curled tightly on couches shared with us. They are tired from months watching us dig clams or cast to rises then pointing to roosters crouched in tall grasses. Endlessly they barked at stripers hauled from beach waves, soliciting no response, save for wagging tails; one in delight, one in peril.
They are three seasons tired. Dogs are our constant companions; we have wide circles of story stretching friends to fill winter months while they have just us. One last look at wet, briar scratched noses and ears with slowly wagging tails before their sleep inspires our own and we draw drapes tightly for the night, or perhaps the season.
One last look at tailgates, as we close in beds tight with split red oak and silver maple. It will be months before we hold down truck beds with our shoulders and arms, cradling cold cans, adjusting khaki caps tinged with smells of offshore success and eels, watching a days last colors allow for the strength of darkness. It will be months before we will sit on tailgates again, dangling deck boots or peeling off waders. Sounds of closing tailgates will ring through our heads for months.
One last look at corner closets, where each year, broken rods increase in number. Most are beyond repair, some are sure candidates but each has its story so collectively they are far too significant to discard. Come Spring, a few may be chosen for new tips or guides but largely, they will remain in a cluster, ready for the next run of owner motivation, which may never come.
One last look overhead to a trusty scrap wood rack cradling our rods; favorite, common, new, used, just plain tired. Motionless, they move our memories of rolling boats and trickling streams, miles driven and ponds paddled, somehow calling to us when we walk below. They are reminders of warm months and full coolers.
One last look at fly reels now safe in pouches, perched on shelves or in fancy cases with rod tubes standing sentinel. They too took us away this year. Four and five weights avoided tree tangles to temp trout with Mickey Finns and Griffiths Gnats. Eight weights gave us strength when early bass came to greet returning herring. Second generation ten weights held fast against mahi circling beneath the slow revolutions of new energy.
One last look at colorful kayaks strapped to cellar ceiling slings and laid on aluminum shed floors. They powered countless perfect mornings with sand worms and coffee cups, contests across unknown ponds in search of largemouth and days drifting through Brenton Reef, dodging anxious charter captains staking claim on public waters. Kayaks have afforded us easy access; leaning on that garage door, we feel the success of good days and the angst of waiting to be back on the water.
One last look at a sweet Old Town cedar and mahogany canoe, safe behind that rusty rasp. Crafted by the finest tradesmen and women 1926 had to offer, she is sweet with her lines, comforting with her ride, peaceful for her drifts. Pushing two worn, crooked ship lapped barn doors, years past their expiration, scratching a path across rutted gravel and pea stone, announces another season’s closing. There is no barter too great which would afford us more time.
We have been blessed with glimmers of abundance and notices of depletion. Greed occasionally gripped the few while the masses celebrated good fortune as fishermen, hunters, hikers, boaters and dreamers.
E.B. White continued, “And here, too, silent by their side
I stand in the woods, listening, upright
Hearing in the cold long pause
Of the full year”
We need last looks through woods and over seas. They must hold us for months.