I worry about us people sometimes. In fact, way back in January, I started a post for these pages in which I expressed some of that worry. As keeping up with the news became like drinking from a fire hose, my worry did not decrease, and you don’t need me to tell you we live in interesting times. So interesting, in fact, that the aforementioned post was abandoned as a draft and it was only recently that I, myself, mustered up the courage to come back and make it look like someone lives here.
Pardon the dust.
I thought, six months ago, that everyone should find the time and a place to sit, relax, and — if only for a moment — think about nothing. It seemed we were moving at a pace more frantic than usual while processing events around us, the likes of which no one had ever seen before. A little breather seemed in order, but that sort of thing is easy to say when you’re the guy at the top of the hill, at the end of the road. In the course of researching ways that people not like me could find those little refreshing moments, I came across a few suggestions, including something I already do, but with a more marketable and social media share-able name.
I’ve never done yoga but, apparently, a lot of people find it a good way to relax and get themselves centered. Others find it a good way to strain a hamstring, injure a wrist or, if you’re older, fall over and break a bone. Broken bones are not necessarily restricted to seniors, though. In August of 2019, a young woman broke 110 of her bones, doing an “extreme yoga” pose for her social media followers. The fact that she fell while doing her yoga hanging from the railing of a sixth floor balcony may have played a part in her injuries.
Yoga is also sometimes practiced in the presence of farm animals, like goats. Who doesn’t like baby goats? Who doesn’t like little poop pellets on the ground in front of your face, or the mysterious wetness of baby goat hooves dancing on your back? The potential for Orf virus is just one of many reasons goat yoga does not sound very relaxing to me, in addition to just being plain silly.
Some people crank the thermostat and do their yoga in the most oppressive conditions they can conjure. It’s called Hot Yoga and it is so relaxing that some people experience heat stroke while doing it.
The thing that really got my goat, so to speak, regarding yoga, though, was the death of a woman attempting yoga on a paddle board.
Yoga on a paddle board.
Yoga on a paddle board.
A tragedy, no doubt, but if I may say so without sounding callous (I can’t), yoga on a paddle board strikes me as more of a cry for help than a step on the path of the Yoga Sutras.
Yoga, it seems to me, is one more thing best done sitting on a rock in the woods but I recently learned that what I call “sitting on a rock in the woods” is known in some circles as “forest bathing” and there are people you can pay to teach you to do it. There are also special places to luxuriously facilitate your forest bathing experience. To make the activity more attractive, some promote a Japanese practice known as Shinrin-yoku (literally, “forest-bath”). A lot of the folks I saw in pictures of forest bathing looked out of place and, while they were certainly earnest enough, many also looked like they were trying too hard — especially the Caucasians donning Oriental garb. They looked like they were in the forest by Occident.
When COVID-19 began its inexorable march across the country, my desire for everyone to take a few minutes and chill became something else entirely as everyone’s world got turned upside down. More than taking a deep breath, we now find ourselves examining pretty much everything we’ve been doing all along. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I hope we make the best of the opportunity.
Folks in these parts were emerging from hibernation when the lock-down began. There was just enough time to come out, have a party, and spend the next two weeks wondering if one had COVID-19 or a case of the sniffles. Sugar houses were quieter, more lonely places as long hours passed without the company of friends, but we got in a good one before everyone got grounded.
Scattered across several valleys, the people I know don’t see each other much anyway, but it is nice to know that what some used to call anti-social behavior is now perfectly acceptable. The actions of a curmudgeonly misanthrope are now expressions of patriotic love, man.
Winter lingered, sticking around much longer than desired. Even when it seemed spring had the upper hand, snow squalls and flash freezes continued into May. Black flies emerged, hungry and seemingly angry (black flies madder? Too soon?).
I find fishing to be calming so it wasn’t long before I was out bothering brook trout, an activity that, despite the slipping and sliding and stumbling over rocks, is somehow relaxing to me.
Mostly just knocking on doors to see if anyone’s home, the small streams I haunt now are are a far cry from the still-water fishing I did for so long, not so long ago. These are the places I snuck off to when I needed a change from stocked fish in a big lake, where the chances of snagging a backcast on something were next to nil.
Backcasts are unnecessary if not impossible in most spots on these streams. Rather, the savvy angler develops a repertoire of presentations to compensate for the lack of casting space. Flicking and flinging work well, along with the occasional cuss word. Holding one’s fly between thumb and forefinger, while drawing line to bend one’s rod like a bow is a very effective way to drive a hook deeply into the flesh of said thumb or forefinger. Sometimes, though, one gets lucky and the fly slips beneath overhanging branches rather than tying two half hitches six feet up a willow.
It’s the kind of fishing where the object is getting up close. Stealth is required. Sometimes, slowly extending the rod, with only the fly touching the water is the way to go — making the expensive reel holding all that expensive line superfluous. It’s the kind of fishing one could do with a stick.
I bet some forward-thinking entrepreneur could come up with a fancy rod without a reel for such conditions. If they were smart, they might even give it a history and a mystical-sounding Japanese name. I enjoy fishing just as much as anyone else but until someone starts selling stick rigs with Japanese names, it’s good to know there will always be the trusty old Green Mountain Thumper.
(Note to self: Insert appropriate heart-felt closing here and delete this text before publishing.)