Monday, July 10, 2006

Lunch time on the Gallatin

One of the beautiful things about being a teacher is all the time off you get... heres an essay I recently wrote while visiting MT, USA...

As much as I LOVE my job... and dont consider teaching kids work at all....I never have moments of inspirtation like this while inside the confines of the four walls of a classroom.... thus, the value of slacker time, time off, time outdoors, 'unproductive' time in general...

I chucked my pad on the ground next to the Gallatin River and plonked a slab of egg salad on some wheat bread. A spectacular day of fishing and standing knee deep in icy water in my shorts and sandals had drained my energies. What was left in its place was the hollowed out-full feeling I get when I spend a day outdoors immersed in beautiful scenery surrounded by wildness, especially in a natural body of water. Whenever I bathe outdoors or swim in a wild lake or river my spirit is lifted to an ethereal plane that is all together lofty, airy and hollow while stridently and fully rooted to the Earth. It is a feeling of contradiction I cannot put in plain words. In short, its magic.

The day had loosened my worries and stresses and cast them aside like a fly rod in high wind. I spied river otters goofing around downstream. From the rock where I was sitting it looked like the otters didnt live their life, but instead they played it as if it were an instrument both novel and familiar. Their lighthearted antics demonstrated intense skill in swimming and diving while exuding a joy like that of a toddler experimenting with their newly discovered anatomy.

As I admired the otters, ecological affairs as old as the river unfolded around me. I snagged a few spears of pickled asparagus while aquatic insects swaggered in an esoteric kamikaze voodoo dance- their River Rumba simultaneously perpetuating life and propelling them towards death. They hardly seemed air worthy as they struggled with lumbering wings to lift their bodies a few feet into the air only to seem exasperated by their inefficient efforts and then plummet strait back down. Once in a while, a brave soul would hit the water to successfully deposit eggs and climb to finish the scene in the one act play of their ephemeral existence. More often, a rainbow trout would rise to the surface to gulp a mouthful of unfamiliar air, water and clumsy insects.

I sipped on my Sam Smith India Pale ale and the river gargled a great big mouthful of snow melt. The exoskeletons of a thousand Salmon Flies clung to the riparian shrubs as testimony to their recent exodus from a watery womb. Conifers conversed with the sun in esoteric light language converting electromagnetic rays and chlorophyll into the many carboned sugars vital to the making of the egg salad, pickled asparagus and pale ale I had recently ingested. Lichen frosted stones stand stoic and resistant but I know they will eventually crumble under the soft and persistent coaxing of their permanent Baptism. They cant be blamed. Its hard not to concede to the supple flow of both time and water.

Caddisflies lie cuddled and strewn under every stone in their gravelly sleeping bags. A few unwisely had chosen to set up camp too near the bank. When the flow of snow melt receded they desiccated, confirming that Nature isnt necessarily perfect but shes a damn good statistician. She gambles that even if the majority of a hundred thousand nymphs perish before they mature there will surely be sufficient numbers to populate the river with her six legged lovers.

I opened the casing of one of the unwise. The dusty instar of a dried up caddisfly locked in arrested development fell into by beer. Like a hunter that drinks the blood of his first kill to become one with the animal spirit, I gulped the carcass with trout like precision to become part of the river.

When I finished my meal I raked up my belongings. A garter snake basked in the sun nearby on an exposed rock. I had the urge to grab it and inspect it up close but then noticed the tail of some unlucky reptile protruding from its mouth. Better to let it rest and digest. I left it unmolested. The snake and I shared a brief yet sated moment and stared into each others eyes. I lit my Backwoods cigar and breathed in the landscape.

Shortly, I rambled up the small embankment back to the car and recounted the day. The trout fed on the rising hatch. The snake fed on its reptilian cousin. I fed on egg salad and beer. If nothing else, life is a feeding. It is up to us to decide our diet. Some of us feed on negativity. Some of us feed on others. All of us feed on life itself.

As I drove off, I looked around to catch one last glance of the beauty that engulfed me and realized there was something larger that I was witnessing. There’s a presence that cannot be captured or expressed and simple beauty falls flat on her face. She is too shy to poke her head out here. She knows shes outclassed. The river embodies this and flows unimpeded by these distinctions while I feel like a newborn struggling inexpertly to classify my experience and the life around me. Finally, I relax and decide that the best I can do is take silent notice and feed my soul.

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