Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Place


This past week, I attended Christmas Eve service in one of the grandest cathedrals in the country, Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian, on Michigan Avenue, downtown. I sat in the rear balcony and stared across the expanse as thirteen-hundred worshipers celebrated the birth of a child and must admit to being brought to tears at the opening strains of Silent Night in that magnificent space, lit only and entirely by small candles held by each member of the congregation. I am not a religious man, but consider myself a spiritual one, and I was moved by the wonder of the place.

On a similar night, thirteen years before, I sat in a small brick Episcopal church in old Raleigh. No pomp or grandeur, the aging congregation outnumbered by the modest choir. The pain of great loss still weighed heavy on my heart. From the humble pulpit a simple holiday message, the birth of new hope, was offered into the tiny, solemn space and I was deeply soothed by the quiet peace I felt there.

To close each year, I step gently into the waters of a particular gorge as the fog lifts and the sun begins to creep over the edge of the wide ravine behind me, illuminating the far rock wall in golden splendor. My heart, already enlivened by the solitary hike in, leaps from my body and soars into the pine rafters of that Nature’s sanctuary. Eyes closed, my face to the heavens, I soak in the majesty of our Mother’s temple and send skyward heartfelt prayers of thanks for the year past and hopes for the coming to whoever might be listening. The place, in return, fills me with joy.

Here’s hoping that you find your place - of wonder, of peace, of joy - in the coming new year. May it sooth your pains and give you life and happiness unbounded.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Photo Bin - November 2015


In a forum far, far away, a group of outdoor bloggers are discussing the state of the medium. The spur for this deliberation was the question "Is blogging dead?" and the discourse has been lively. No consensus has been reached, but it's generally agreed that, at the very least, blogging has a pretty bad cold. The issue is not necessarily quality, but quantity. With a few exceptions, the rate at which folks are posting is dropping precipitously. Nowhere is there a better example of that than right here. Lots of excuses could be made, but there is no really good explanation.

And it occurs to me that, this year at least, these Photo Bins have been the barely-trickling life blood of this place. Without it, there'd have been long periods of nothing. The Bin keeps my feet to the fire, if even just monthly. Ironic, considering that this was just a throw-away post when first stared. That, and the obvious fact that I'm no photographer. But then it could be argued that I'm no writer either, so let's just get on with it.

This month marked the first anniversary of the passing of a dear neighbor and friend. At that time, honoring her request, we committed her ashes to the river down the hill, a place that she loved. In commemoration of that day and to keep her memory fresh in our minds, we gathered this month once again at the waters. The image above is of a few of the flowers that were sent to catch up with her, downstream, to where we will all follow, someday.


I chuckled at the unintentional placement of this Halloween image of hell after the previous solemn afterlife reference, but decided to leave it this way as it might very well be my downstream destination.

One of my favorite holiday events is the Bynum Bridge Pumpkin Walk, held each All Saints Day. The old quarter-mile Highway 15 span, now used only for nice afternoon strolls, is lined, end-to-end, with pumpkins carved in every conceivable manner. From simple kids' punch-outs to intricate works of art, the creations are great fun and it's a wonderful night out under the trick-or-treat stars.


You already know that I have a new toy. Been wanting another electric for many years now, but knew myself well enough to want a good one. Seemed a frivolous idea, given that I haven't played with any real seriousness for forty years.

But Fender pushed me over the cliff with the release of this quirky new limited edition double-cut Telecaster. I've thought for some time now that the Tele was what I needed, but couldn't get around its blocky look. (Yes, I'm that shallow.) The double cutaway swayed me and the absolute clincher was the ash blonde finish. I'm a sucker for blondes and have been ever since Lindsay Rosebrock's sweet wheat-colored Mustang, way back in my junior high days. That and Honey West.


There's no having a November picture post without at least one Autumn image. We had a run of spectacular sunsets, here on the ridge, and watching the evening sun spotlight a single, stubborn oak was magical. Shot off our back deck, this just illustrates how nice it is living out here.


Finally, an image not from this month, but one from November a-year-past that I stumbled upon the other day when looking for something else. I really miss this little guy so broke the rules to include it here.

I hope that the imminent holidays are wonderful for you and yours and that the coming year arrives with promise and hope. And with any luck, these blogging sniffles will clear up and maybe things will liven up around here. Who knows, there might even be some fishing.

If not, I guess that there's always the Photo Bins.


What is a Photo Bin?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

There's Always Rock 'n' Roll


Hate to tell you, but there's more to life than just fishin’. There's also rock 'n' roll.

It’s a familiar story. I was going to be a star. Got my start in a local band during the late sixties and early seventies. Rock covers, mostly, with a few heavy jams just for fun. I wasn’t the most competent of musicians, but volume and fuzz (with a modicum of wah-wah) can cover a host of technical inadequacies. Talent aside, I had the look. Long hair, hip-hugging jeans, a carefully cultivated aura of indifference. Most of all, I had the burning desire to stand up on stage and bathe the masses in power chords. Good times.

Too good. My pipe dreams, and the lifestyle that came with them, drowned out my first attempt at higher education like bad feedback. A degree in mathematics couldn’t hold an incense stick to Guitar Godliness so in three quick semesters I was out the university's back door, a coiled cord trailing behind me. No big loss. The only calculus I needed was the derivation of twelve bar progressions and integrations on the five positions of the minor pentatonic. Newton dug the blues.

But the band flamed out in a blaze of personality and the girlfriend became the wife, then the expectant mother of my child, at a pace that was truly terrifying. Adulthood reared its perverse, ugly head. The Strat and the stack were sacrificed on the alter of domesticity, pawned to pay tithe to the working stiff’s holy trinity; Carolina Power and Light, Southern Bell, and the blessed Piggly Wiggly.

Decades passed.

I must admit that I’ve not been completely fretless. Over the years I’ve been bestowed a pair of acoustics, a gift born of love and a bequeathment steeped in sorrow, and I cherish them each dearly for their origins. But I've played them sparingly, all this time, as I have always been more moved by their emotional resonance than their tonal. They've been strung with my heartstrings.

But for all of their unplugged joy, I’ve missed the hot smell of over-driven tubes and the crunch of Jensen paper. I’ve missed low action necks and sustain lasting for days. I’ve missed being coaxially tethered to enough raw power to rattle your bones and pop out your fillings and make your ears bleed. I’ve missed the noise.

So, last week, I wrote off getting that next couple of fly rods and new pair of waders to realize, instead, my neglected Fender fantasies. Beautiful things. Just the boogie-woogie kick in the pants I’ve been craving. Sure, my having this rig is like giving the keys to the Ferrari to Grandma, but goddamn it feels good. It's time to shake the house once again.

Have no fears, fly fishing is still my passion and I'll continue to write of it here for it holds a part of my soul and always will. But something older has retaken my gut and it won’t be set aside, ever again.

‘Cause, Son, even when the fish won't bite, there’s always rock ‘n' roll.

1972-ish