25 May 2009

for bigger trout

Convergence: those unexpected "coincidences" that set you back on your heels in awe. Powell's Books seems to be a portal for convergence with their collections of new and used books. One of my recent visits for a gift resulted in a book on art that included in the pages some found artwork, a shopping list for acrylics and pencils, and a pressed cannabis leaf. Strong with the presence of the previous owner, it was the perfect gift for my artist friend.

Work on my novel is getting down to nuts and bolts, and I've had to reach out to libraries, photo galleries, books and even take a couple road trips in order to clarify the facts. It's not enough to write by experience if your facts are mis-aligned.

This week, the focus is fishing. My personal experiences are many and varied. I fished as a child with my father, then with my brothers, and now with my husband and my own children. Years ago, I was dumped by a boy I was dating after we went fishing together and I caught more fish than he did (3 - 0). And once I lost an enormous brook trout for my husband after he had played it in to the shore where I failed to net it before it flipped out into the waterway, gone forever—reasonable grounds for divorce, our friend Big Danny advised my husband.

The shortcomings of my memories are that they are attuned to the broad experience. In order to take the Wildish boys, my family of characters, fishing with their father, I needed a more accurate vision of the fish and the language of those who are the artists of their craft—the real fishermen.

Off to Powell's with a specific book title recommended by my youngest brother, Scott, who holds the esteem of being a real fisherman. Powell's has an entire section for fishing, and then sub-sections: fishing in the northwest, trout fishing, fly fishing, fly fishing for trout, and (my target) fly fishing for steelhead in the northwest. Advanced Fly Fishing for Steelhead by Deke Meyer. The author is a local expert and has written in particular about the steelhead on the Stillaguamish.

I browsed several books on trout, including Trout: an illustrated history by James Prosek. Inside the pages, a folded article "For Bigger Trout" by Tom McNally, Outdoor Life, May 1957. Of course, I bought the book.

In 1957, The Wildish boys' father, Abraham Leonard Wildish, was 21 years old. He was still living in Indiana with his family, never dreaming that his life would go to hell seven ways from Sunday over the next couple of years. Naive to the changes that would alter his life forever, he probably even read this particular article, his only aspiration to become the greatest of all fishermen.

Coincidence? I'm not a believer. But I believe in universal connection, the convergence of thought to reality, collective conscience, the repercussions of a lifted butterfly wing. Call it what you will.

Today's gift from Mr. McNally:

"As every fisherman who has chucked flies or dunked bait in a trout stream knows, big trout like big mouthfuls. Fishing records go on to prove that wherever large trout are caught on flies. . ."


16 May 2009


What do you dream at night? I have dreamed vividly since I was a child. Of people and places. Of family. Of loss. Some recurrent. Some nightmares. I have dreamed things that came true later - or perhaps were already true. Or perhaps just coincidence, if you believe in that.

Do you dream about flying? One of my children fell asleep in Anatomy class and dreamed of flying, and then falling, and woke abruptly when her head banged down on her school desk.

My favorite dream is of riding my horses as a young teen - it's almost like flying, clinging bareback to my favorite mare on a hot Idaho summer day, leaning forward over her rising withers as she lopes across a freshly ploughed field. It is my most restful dream and only comes to me in times of great need to be grounded or times of great joy.

Ten years ago, I kept dreaming about seeing a drowning baby and not being able to reach it in time. Interpretation aside, I would wake, terrified and shivering in a cold sweat. The baby was not mine, and the setting would be different every time - a mountain stream, an ocean beach, a clear lake. I was advised to step into the dream lucidly to save the child, change the dream, but it only heightened my terror to wake again and again, too late, all attempts failed.

Healing finally came for me from a group of women on their sacred ground, the ancient fishing grounds at Celilo where the Columbia River was once a large waterfall until the Bonneville dam covered it over and eliminated the traditional fishing rites of the local tribe. On this spot during an annual three-day gathering, the women were in ceremony, and I was given the opportunity to prepare and serve them food.

On the morning of the third day just before dawn, I dreamed again of the baby. Of rushing water. This time, I was able to reach out my arms and take the child to my breast, both of us saved in our embrace. Saved in a place where the falls had been drowned and through the practice of serving another. I have not dreamed it since.

Healing comes to me in the small moments of morning or the quiet of sunrise. The noise of a bird. The reflection of water up from the lake against the trunks of trees. And for all those broken pieces that make up my life, it seems an ongoing process.

Perhaps made easier by dreams of riding bareback under a wide Idaho sky.


19 April 2009

poem or prose?

The annual Estacada Area Arts Commission Writers Night was once again an enjoyable event. Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred are two of my most favorite people who are coincidentally writers - and poets. I was a bit late (as usual) and missed some of the first readings by poet Melanie Green. Stevan read "Conflations of a Hard Headed Yankee." Joanna read a selection of her poems - a debut reading for her as she has only read her prose before. Steve Denniston read his story "Duck Fishing in Dufur." The readings were entertaining, truthful, and beautiful with language. I was reminded how grateful I am for the community of writers - and listeners.

Stevan relayed a story about the difference between poets and prose writers (inspired by a poem from Melanie about bats). Here's the short version:

A woman came into a group of poets and prose writers and said, "I just saw some bats at my house."

The poets said, "What did they look like?"

The prose writers said, "What happened?"

It provoked conversation. What's the difference? Does use of language determine form? What if prose engages poetic language? Does it matter? Why write at all?

Author Jeremy Adam Smith says that writing offers a different way to work through problems, a persuasive perspective, or a larger connection. Or maybe writers just like to read.

A poet near and dear to me says he writes to give voice to those feelings for which there are no single words. Poetry allows him the room to touch those deepest emotions. It is personal for him and needs only a private audience.

Raymond Carver said writers write to save lives (looking for the reference - I think it is from his introduction to Best American Short Stories).

Quantum mechanics proposes that perception is integral to the existence of the universe. (Read The Biocentric Universe in this month's Discover magazine). In a quantum nutshell: we observe so the universe exists.

Do the observations of our world in all our most human moments serve to do more than just record us?

A western tanager outside the kitchen window.

A fishhook in a drunken man's lip.

A spilled bottle of screws on a widower's workbench.


Carver also wrote that the life we save is our own.