Monday, October 27, 2014

LOOKING UPSTREAM

Every morning, when I step outside the cottage for a closer look at the river, it's generally the upstream view that first garners my attention.

Why? What prompts such preferential behavior?

After all, I have a choice—upstream or downstream. Both directions afford similar, quarter-mile stretches to scan before the stream disappears from sight around a bend. And I'd be hard pressed to choose one setting over the other as being more visually interesting—or think it any more likely to be frequented by the usual array of birds and riverine critters I such delight in watching.

Moreover, I'm already facing downstream as I exit the door, which is located on the building's side end nearest the river. Before I can gaze all the way upstream, I must first take a couple of paces to the right and swing around the corner of the house. 

Yet when I go out, I'm nonetheless apt, initially, to do little more than give the downstream water a brief and passing glance—unless something interesting catches my eye.

Again…why? If the two river views are physically equal, photogenically comparable, and uniform in their potential attraction to wildlife, shouldn't my daily first views be fairly evenly divided?

Having mused over this seeming conundrum a while, I've come to suspect the answer lies tangled somewhere amid a murky mix of history, philosophy, and metaphor.

As a lifelong stream fisherman who's cast his flies and ultralight lures on creeks, rivers, and purling brooks all over North America, and who admittedly seldom met a piece of running water he didn't long to explore—from ultimate merging with other waters to birthing source as a bubbling spring or mountain rill—I've almost always done my angling and investigating in an upstream direction. I'm doubtless programmed by personal history to gravitate to the upstream view.

Philosophically, in spite of my regular whining, I'm more optimist than pessimist, a glass-is-half-full fellow who tries to look ahead. The upstream view is, in physical fact, an early look at whatever is traveling along with the flow. Bobbing and swirling in the eddies. Slowing through the pools. Sparkling as it tumbles and chatters down the riffles. Moving water, heading my way, bringing all sorts of interesting gifts.  

And finally, moving waters all possess an honest and beautiful capacity, metaphorically, for poignantly illustrating and illuminating that restless earthly passage we call our life. I hope a day's first look is made upstream because the joy I find in being blessed with another morning somehow sparks the courage to face my immediate future.                   

13 comments:

Gail said...

Hi Grizz - I so appreciate your relationship with nature - including your upstream view preference and fishing adventures. You ar truly a man of simple, natural force - surrendering to natures command with dignity and respect and harmony. Nature feeds your very soul - I feel it and see it in yur amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and respect of our earth and natures forces, blessings and miracles.
We are expecting a wintry mix this weekend - natures fury unleashes - I love it!!
Love Gail
peace.....

Momcat said...

Actually, I had not seen this before. Regarding your philosophical paragraph..it's kind of like watching a parade... you wouldn't want to look at receding parade units ..the back of people's heads and backsides of animals'(half empty) ... much more fascinating to anticipate what is still to come (half full). Does this make sense to you?

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Thank you. As always, I really appreciate your comments. Not feeling too forceful right now, simple, natural, or otherwise…just tired and sore and sleepy. But while I've been stuck at the desk all day, I've been serenaded by a Carolina wren who's sat on the rail just beyond the window, and I've watched herons stalking the edge of the pool beyond. So there's been a little nature in there to ease being cooped up.

We've had several mild days here—in the 70˚s yesterday, rainy today. Our weekend is supposed to be in the 40˚s. I'm trying to get all my firewood finished, but between writing and other stuff, I'm not making very fast headway. Tomorrow I'll have some time and plan to use a big chunk of it with splitter and saw.

Hope you're doing good, staying well and enjoying autumn. You be sure and take care of yourself.

Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

The parade metaphor fits, of course—though I'd say you mostly watch the section of a parade that's directly in front of you.

In the same way, my upstream represents future, while downstream shows a sort of history. But if you carry that into life, the truth is we only live in the now, not the future or past. The past can teach us, inform us, and the future can warn and give hope, provide expectations and a direction for aiming.

Nevertheless, the now is all that matters.

Hemingway, in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, wrote: "Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the days that ever come can depend on what you do today." Very profound and very true, for everyone. Today matters. It is all we ever have. And how we use it can matter in ways we can never imagine.

So my upstream looking is perhaps no better than if I preferred the downstream view. Where I most need to look is where I'm at.

Momcat said...

What an amazing reply. I stopped thinking it through too soon, thinking of how I need to watch most parades as a photographer for the paper, always looking ahead so I don't miss an entirety or the front of a unit). Looking at it that way, I do miss what is directly in front of me.

So, thanks to your comment, I realize the parallel to how that viewpoint (mindless habit) carries over to real life and most likely causes me to miss experiencing the fullness of moments by looking ahead time-wise.
I feel I am beginning to babble, so I will stop!

Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

I think it is human nature to want to know what's ahead, to try and see the future. And there's nothing wrong with plans and hopes and dreams—with setting goals and aiming high, exploring options, trying to improve what needs improving.

But the fact remains, any future is always uncertain. We can guess at its shape and content, try our best to insure it comes about…but we can never guarantee any of it will come to pass, starting with our waking up a day or week or month from now. The only certainty of life is its uncertainty.

And that's the real tragedy of paying too much attention gazing ahead—or behind, for that matter. Life takes place here, today, only in this vey moment. It may be all we'll ever have—the last of our personal allotment. So while looking ahead and behind can prove useful, neither should ever become our primary emphasis, and cause us to miss those gifts and opportunities, joys and wonders, of what's now laid upon our day's table.

KGMom said...

Scribe--when I stop by your blog place I know I will be rewarded--lovely photos, pensive thoughts.
Thanks for your continued gifts that you share.

Grizz………… said...

KGMom…

Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them. I know I haven't been blogging much lately, mostly because of so much work and never enough time to get it all done. But I haven't lost my enthusiasm—just having trouble finding time.

Judith said...

Never really thought about it but I too always look upstream first. Prosaically, I think it's because I'm right handed and so I rarely turn widdershins when I turn around. It's just natural to turn to the right and , for me, that's upstream.
eysisrul Bureau

Grizz………… said...

Judith…

Oh, my! Haven't heard anyone use the word "widdershins" in so long I plumb forgot there was such a neat old expression for turning in a counterclockwise direction! Maybe not since the last of my father's aging kin laid down their asphidity bag and crossed that eternal river into Beulah Land. I'm so pleased you've brought it back into my thoughts!

Moreover, I'm with you on personally preferring right-hand turns…none of those wrong-feeling lefty widdershins for me, either. Although it is easier to swing and make a quick across-your-body-and to-the-left presentation to a rising trout when angling with fly tackle.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I read too much weird stuff!

Grizz………… said...

Jennifer A. Jilks…

Thank you…I love it too. And I love your northcountry.

Grizz………… said...

Anonymous…

Or not enough? Reading weird stuff seems to me, a weird reader of long standing, a lot like eating dark chocolate…overindulgence is seldom a problem.