Checking the radar, there were more little storm cells appearing in various shades of green and yellow with the occasional orange blip. Getting a coat of primer on the house wasn't happening, again. Rain soaked everything. It looked like a day of cleaning until a friend said "We might have to go fishing." Yes.
I don't fish. But I like fish, I think they are beautiful. I love to watch them. The colors fascinate me. Each one, no matter how bland on first glance, contains a rainbow of shimmers and hues.
Pulled from the water into the sunlight, a fish gives you a glimpse of an existence we can never really know. Refreshing, cool, glittering light and lurking shadows.
Creeks are meant for fishing.
A colorful frog blends into his surroundings.
A snail slowly moves across the forest floor.
The constant caress of the hemlock cooled waters, the dull roar of the creek as it winds through silty beaver meadows, glacial gravel, and deep woodland earth.
I don't fish, but fishing means a meditative afternoon strolling on the terrestrial banks. It means the xylophonic melody of rain dripping and cascading through the trees. It means red efts crossing my path, birds singing to lure the sun, and rich, earthy aromas filling the mist-heavy air. Flip a rock, balance across a fallen log Yes! Let's go fishing.
My old hiking boots sink into the saturated forest floor, ferns cling to wet leather. Wisps of storm fog rise through the canopy, fingers of water not yet ready to be earthbound. A land snail. A deer track. The heavy pattering of raindrops as the wind shakes them loose from their bower. Breathe. Slow down. Forget that the house needs to be cleaned and painted. Forget that the garden is a weedy jungle. Forget, and just breathe.
Creek rocks stacked unnaturally, in a wall, cast iron remnants half buried by decades of leaf litter. Likely an old sawmill. How different was the forest then? What was it like? An empty snail shell is tucked between rocks. Did it get stuck? Die of old age? Did a squirrel put it there? I run my finger around the perfect spiral and drop it in my backpack. Downstream.
It rained too hard, the creek is too muddy to fish right now. Rolling water tumbles and runs over long established routes scoured into the hillside. Cloudy with silt, the color of coffee with one creamer, the creek adds its gurgle and burble to the Sunday forest symphony. Breathe and listen. Absorb.
The filtered sunlight gives way to open sky approaching the beaver meadow. Long abandoned dams harbor Blue Vervain, Elderberry, Joe Pye Weed, a million crickets, one giant water snake and rushes and sedges and reeds galore. Sticking my head in the old lodge, the air is dry and cool wafting out. Snacks and rock collecting on the gravel bar, backpack as a pillow, the open air lulling me into peace. I can feel the world and its worries finally slipping away. It has been too long since my mind has been restful, since I felt that deep relaxation that comes only from spending hours in the woods.
The water now is perfect. A hint of stormy blue-green, just opaque enough. Following the creek the brookies start biting. Pretty little fish, reds and yellows and creamy whites, metallic blue shimmer and dusky browns and tans. The sky is lightening as the water clears, sneaking through tree tops to illuminate a sparkling world below.
Then suddenly, there it is, at a bend in the creek. The sounds and stillness and light all combine and create the internal calm. The reset button. The moment when the only things that exist are what I can see, hear, smell, and touch. I smile. A day lamented at its dawning becomes one of the best in a long time. The green and yellow blips on the radar became the subtly, magnificently colored brookies. There is a lesson there. Yes. Let's go fishing.
While you can't fish at Audubon, there are over five miles of trails to walk, meander, and relax on.
We are located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown.
The trails are open from dawn to dusk. The Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sundays when we open at 1 p.m.
Visit jamestownaudubon.org or call 569-2345 for more information.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon.