Posts Tagged ‘South Fork Colorado’

Snow Rhapsody on the Stream

September 10, 2020
South Fork of the Rio Grande

The river was clear and smoothly fast in the early morning.
Down about two hundred yards were three logs all the way across the stream. They made the water smooth and deep above them. As Nick watched, a mink crossed the river on the logs and went into the swamp. Nick was excited. He was excited by the early morning and the river.

Ernest Hemingway, “The Big Two-Hearted River”

Riverbend Resort has been my favorite Colorado haunt since our friends the Darrs introduced us to this place twenty years ago. The South Fork of the Rio Grande cuts through the resort, and I decided to rent a tent spot for $30 so I could fish on this private stretch of water that I have come to know so well.

With temperatures hovering at 34 degrees and the one-foot snowfall thawing enough to make trudging through the meadows easier, I pulled on sufficient winter gear to enter the stream and not suffer chills with the icy winds coming down the gorge.

Rhapsody in the Stream

After working the waters for nearly two hours, I only encountered a small brown trout for five seconds before he shook free of the fly. Copper Johns have always been the trouts’ nymph of choice, and I was advised that they were still doing the trick this time of year in these parts. But I was having near-zero luck this time.

Nevertheless, the waters were beautiful as was the fallen snow all around, and I felt a serenity I always cherish when wading a mountain stream. The solitude was rich; I only enountered one other fly fisherman who hailed me from the shore as he was trudging back to his cabin, having caught only one small rainbow. Temperatures continued to hold steady in the mid-thirties, but I felt no discomfort. In the third hour, I finally reached my favorite hole–an enormous shelf of rock the size of a pickup truck slanting into the water, the darkness beneath making my pulse quicken.

My first cast into the shadow of the rock was greeted by a fourteen-inch rainbow whose aerobatics entertained me for about half a minute. By the time I had him within three feet of my net, he broke free and was gone. Still, watching his antics sent thrills throughout my being, and I knew there had to be more action where that originated.

After missing another trio of strikes near the rock, I finally hooked and netted a small brown and took a moment to admire the beautiful bronzes, golds and scarlets that played along his flank as he lay on the rocks. I wasn’t fishing for food today, and was glad to see him dart into the depths once I released him.

All at once the heavens opened and the air was filled with enormous snow flakes. This is the first time I ever stood in the midst of a mountain stream with a snow shower falling all over me and plopping all over the stream. I’ve been surprised before by sudden thunderstorms, always exiting the waters as quickly as possible, but this was different–the enormous flakes fell hard and thick all around me, and the sight was gorgeous. I wanted to take out my phone and shoot pictures, but the waters suddenly rippled in several areas at once as the trout were rising with a vengeance. Because I was using a nymph, I held little hope of landing any of these surface feeders, but I suddenly saw a good-sized brown rolling in the water just underneath the lip of that enormous rock outcropping. I dropped the nymph upstream and watched the grasshopper I used as a strike indicator drift along the shadow of the rock. Suddenly the hopper was gone and I saw the bright flash of gold beneath the surface. A minute later, he was in the net, all fourteen inches of him.

After a quick photo I lowered him back into the water and he was off like a shot. All I could think of was the Hemingway short story (a portion posted above) that I’ve loved since high school. And I laughed at recalling the prosaic line “Nick was happy.” That’s all I could say. Dave was happy. And exhausted. As I turned to leave the stream, grateful for such a day and thinking nothing better could possibly happen, a bird suddenly visited me. He landed on my fly rod and remained perched there. After a few frozen moments of our staring at one another, I reached into my pouch, fished out my phone, flipped to the camera mode, aimed, and caught his picture. He stayed another thirty seconds before deciding to move on. I couldn’t believe it: a bird suddenly perching on my flyrod as I waded toward shore. And staying awhile as I stood still, holding the rod as steady as possible.

Bird on the Flyrod

Two summers ago, while here at Riverbend Resort, I was watercoloring on the porch of my cabin and was visited by a bird who perched on the painting I was working on en plein air. He also remained to be photographed for warm memories. My friends laughed at the encounter, calling me Saint Francis.

Bird on the Painting

In the morning we continue our Odyssey as we venture into Utah. Thanks for reading. This has been a heart-warming day for me.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Snowbound September 9, 2020

September 9, 2020
View from the Cabin Porch, South Fork, CO

When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains . . .

            The world’s darkening never reaches

            to the light of Being.

            We are too late for the gods and too

                        early for Being. Being’s poem,

                        just begun, is man.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

We decided we had had too much of the Texas triple-digit daily temperatures, so we put together a plan for a one-week Odyssey to Colorado and Utah. Two days before departure, we saw the winter storm warnings for Colorado, but decided to soldier on. Spending the first night in Amarillo, we noticed temperatures dropping to 59 degrees. By the time we cleared Walsenburg, Colorado, snow began dumping on us and the temperatures dropped to 32 degrees. South Fork greeted us one hour later with no snow and a surprising 57 degree afternoon, but that changed at nightfall. At 7 p.m., the electricity for the city failed, and did not resume till 1:30 a.m. Fortunately the cabin was well-insulated and sleeping was never a problem. Morning greeted us with a foot of snow, and it continues to fall, expecting to continue till noon Thursday. Today is Wednesday. The first thing I did when rising this morning was read “Snowbound” by John Greenleaf Whittier. After that, I read the Heidegger poem, then went outside to photograph the breath-taking mountain vista shrouded in mist above.

28 degrees isn’t so bad if you’re sufficiently bundled. So I set up my plein air easel on the front porch and gazed at that lovely mountain scene, deciding to give it a try in my watercolor sketchbook diary.

View from Inside the Cabin
Sandi captured this photo of me working on the sketch

This is only my second watercolor sketch in the diary. I purchased it last week, deciding to bite the bullet and see if I could do some decent watercolor experiments and keep them in a bound book. In the past I’ve attempted many sketches that ended up worthy of framing, so I feared that I would merely tear up a sketchbook. Now I’ve decided that I will work freely in this book, and if something is suitable for framing, tough luck; I will keep the sketchbook intact and enjoy flipping through its pages.

Even when my watercolor attempts don’t pan out, I have a luxurious time painting, loving every moment. This mountain view really sent me to another world, watching the mist descend over the crown of the mountain, all the time trying to capture the colors and textures I saw evolving. Thanks to a small spray mist bottle, I was able to continue dissolving the paint at the top of the mountain while continuing my work down the slope. This is only a 5 x 7″ attempt, but I’m happy with how it came out and will gladly keep it in the book. I’m still amazed that I was able to paint en plein air outdoors in 28-degree weather.

Thanks for reading. Our first full day here in Colorado is proving an eventful odyssey, and we’re happy and safe.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Colorado Splendor

August 4, 2018

chipmunk close

A New Little Friend

chipmunk

Follow your genius closely enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect at every hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My friend Dian Darr, who is part of this Colorado excursion, gave me a gift of a plaque with the above quote from Thoreau engraved on it. When I return home, it will be placed in front of me at my desk to view every time I sit down there to work. Thank you, Dian!

The windows of the Brookie Cabin have been left open every night, which has made for some bone-chilling mornings. Today was not an exception, with temperatures dipping to 48 degrees. I rose at 5:55, took a quick shower and donned clean clothes, and intended to sit at the table to read and write for awhile, but I made the mistake of looking out the cabin window:

tree

Tree Filled with Lights!

When my eyes were dazzled by the sight of this tree in the brilliant light of the mountain sunrise, I immediately remembered a line from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, relating a story of a girl blind from birth that had had a special surgery allowing her to see for the very first time:

“When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.”

I immediately put on a fleece hoodie and went out onto the porch to attempt to paint this tree of lights.

me 3

Taking Advantage of a Bright 50-degree morning

And speaking of painting, allow me to jump back in time. I just have to post this picture of what happened to me last night as I worked to finish my second attempt at a pine tree, this one in the late afternoon light:

evening pine

My Second Attempt at the Pine Tree

As I was finishing this pine tree painting, birds began to crowd each other at the feeder that hangs from the corner of this deck. I decided to put some of the sunflower seeds along the rail of the deck beside me, figuring that after I went inside for the evening, one of them could gather up those seeds.  Well, this one couldn’t wait:

bird

I believe this bird is an Evening Grosbeak, judging by the illustrations in a bird book I’ve consulted. He was only 18″ from my left shoulder as I painted! I looked directly at him and took this picture with my cell phone. He stayed almost thirty minutes, gobbling up every single sunflower seed that I had spread along the railing.

And now, back to this morning . . . After painting about an hour, I accepted the Darr’s generous invitation to have breakfast with them in their cabin nearby. After breakfast, we drove to Beaver Creek Reservoir to see if we could catch some trout for dinner. It was then that I realized that I had mistakenly packed all three of my fly reels to ship back to Texas! So . . . Plan B.  I decided to try the spinning reel with a casting bubble to throw dry and wet flies into the water. It worked!

trout bigger

Trying out a Casting Bubble and Dry Fly

This beautiful rainbow rose to the surface and gobbled up an enormous dry fly of a grasshopper. Ron and I alternated between Parachute Adams dry flies and Copper John nymphs and managed to catch our limit.

ron and I 2

Fishing with my Buddy Ron Darr

ron and I

Proud of our Catch!

trout big

It has been a spectacular day in Colorado. I’m not ready to return to Texas, but will have to leave here eventually.

Thanks for reading.

Morning River Mystique

July 26, 2018

 

When the early morning light quietly grows above the mountains . . . We are too late for the gods and too early for Being. Being’s poem, just begun, is man.

To think is to confine yourself to a single thought that one day stands still like a star in the world’s sky.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

riverbend

View from Brookie Cabin

July 26, 2018

The fifty-two degree Colorado morning was a chilly one with all the cabin windows open and the mountain breezes coming through. I rose at 6:56, showered, made French press coffee (pinon blend tastes so delicious in the mountain air), and prepared a three-egg omelet with asparagus, red pepper, onion, bacon jerky and shredded mozzarella. At 7:56, with breakfast over, I stepped out onto the cabin deck to view the meadows separating my cabin from the stream. My eye was filled with delight, seeing that the grasses were artistically woven with contrasting strips of amber sunlight and teal green shadows.  Beyond them, the stream laughed gently. I pulled on waders, boots, gravel guards and belt, then joined together my four-piece fly rod, attached the reel, and threaded my line through the guides.

rigging up

Tying on a Parachute Adams dry fly and attaching 18” of tippet with a Micro Mayfly nymph, I picked up my net and shoulder bag and hiked my way to the stream below.

fly

I felt the serenity I know all-too-well from reading Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River, Part II.” I could just as well have been Nick, happily hiking along the stream, surveying the flow and listening to the birds that filled the trees and bushes along the trail. Carefully stepping among the slick rocks in the stream bed, I slowly made my way out to where the water was flowing along a narrow channel between boulders and a fallen tree. Stripping the line from my reel, I flicked the dry fly and trailing nymph out into the current and watched it glide by as I mended my line and took out the slack. There seems to be a calming Zen rhythm to fly casting, and it didn’t take long for me to feel that I had meshed with the flow of the stream.

After a dozen casts, the dry fly suddenly disappeared beneath the surface and I hauled back sharply on the rod. The heavy throb at the end of the line indicated that a trout was on. He fled to the tree, and I managed to pull him away. Next he darted downstream, and I turned him back. As he rocketed out of the water, the sun reflected off the golden sides of a 12” brown trout, a nice sturdy one. Several somersaults later, he finally drew close enough for me to slip the net under him. I wet my hands, removed the barbless hook from his jaw, photographed him lying next to my flyrod, then gently placed him back into the water and watched him dart into the depths and disappear.

trout 2

The story would repeat about fifteen more times, with some of the trout escaping after a brief flourish, and one heavy one breaking my line as I tried unsuccessfully to keep him out of the fallen tree that was damming up the stream. Unfortunately, I never got to see him, as he stayed deep and pulled violently on my line. No matter. All of today’s trout were released and I took only memories from the stream.

trout

Three hours later, I decided the morning was spent. Selecting a large boulder, I sat down and drew out of my small shoulder bag a slim volume of Pre-Socratic fragments that I love translating from their original language. Selecting perhaps the oldest fragment of Western thinking, I translated a line from Anaximander, a sixth-century BCE thinker from the island of Samos:

From where things have their origin, they must also pass away, according to necessity. for they pay penalty for their injustices, according to the ordinance of time.

There will be plenty to unpack from this ancient oracle, but this morning, one particular idea stood out—the necessity that whatever comes into being will pass into oblivion. At age sixty-four, I think of this much more now than I did twenty years ago. I am grateful that I have been given the gift of appearing on the world’s stage to do my performance and then exit, hoping that what I leave behind will be more good than bad.

Every time I am given this precious gift of standing in a mountain stream on a chilly, sun-splashed morning at an altitude surpassing 8,000 feet, my mind returns to the reading of A River Runs Through It. One of my favorite passages involves the Reverend Maclean seated in the woods after fly fishing, and translating from his Greek New Testament the Prologue to the Gospel of John. I did this last week while seated in a lovely library at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  For anyone not familiar with the New Testament text, I encourage you to meditate on it, particularly the first five verses. In A River Runs Through It, Reverend Maclean discusses with his elder son Norman the significance of the passage and how it can be related to the flowing mountain river and the eternal rocks beneath the surface. Every time I pause beside a mountain stream to read, or wade the channels in search of trout, I am struck by this thought of rocks from the basement of time lying quietly beneath the flowing, restless waters of the stream.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. 

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Thanks for reading. My time in Colorado surpasses words to describe.

boulder

Waiting for the Morning Light . . .

August 11, 2017

20170811_055217

When the early morning light quietly 

grows above the mountains . . . . 

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and rose to a 48-degree morning in South Fork, Colorado. My lovely stay here is drawing near a close, and I am still probing this engaging poem of Heidegger’s written from his days in the Black Forest. Following a long black night’s slumber, I felt kissed by the dawn, and rose gladly to dress, put on coffee to brew, and step outside onto the cabin deck while the darkness was just beginning to withdraw.

The world’s darkening never reaches

to the light of Being.

For the first time, my attention froze on those words. Looking up at the lit sky behind the mountains, I noticed that nature’s shapes below were beginning to emerge and take on color and identity. And I meditated on this–the light gives shape to the forms below; the forms do not reach up to the light.

Reaching for my Greek New Testament, I turned to John’s Prologue (John 1:1-18) and began reading that text that I had learned to translate since my graduate school days decades ago:

The light shines in darkness, and the darkness is unable to extinguish it (John 1:5). What a thought–it is the nature of light to invade darkness, push back the darkness. The darkness does not come to the light, nor does it overpower the light. My mind raced in a dozen directions, from the wisdom shed by European thinkers during the 18th-century Enlightenment to some of my own personal, biographical memories. Light overcomes darkness. As I sat on the darkened porch, watching the Colorado landscape take shape beneath the light of the dawn, I decided to set up my plein air easel and get ready to resume the watercolor that I had sketched out the evening before. As my eye trained on the boulder and fir tree below my deck, I delighted in the rose colors appearing on the rock as the sun rose in the east. The fir tree seemed suddenly to dance in the yellow-green glory of the light cast from the sun, and I excitedly reached for my brush.

But alas, the rosy sun suddenly dissolved into a gray overcast, and the rock and tree returned to their neutral tints. I shall patiently wait for the sun to return. I want this watercolor to depict a bright landscape, not an overcast one.

Returning to The Gospel of John and laying it alongside Heidegger’s poem, I continued with delight to draw out parallels between the texts, and by the time I stopped, I had scribbled out 5 1/2 pages in my journal, sketchy thoughts waiting to be fleshed out as the day progresses.

Thank you for reading. This has been a soul-stirring morning in Colorado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts in the Pre-Dawn

August 9, 2017

pre dawn

South Fork, Colorado at 5:40 a.m.

When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains . . . . 

(Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”)

Rising to the sound of the South Fork of the Rio Grande flowing past my cabin window this morning, I felt the rush of gratitude again for life and beauty. Once the coffee was brewed I sat with my open journal and poured out my heart upon the pages. The pen could not move fast enough.

I love the Heidegger poem, a fragment of which I’ve posted above. I realize he left the ellipsis so he could complete his sentence with four stanzas of completed ideas, but I now wish to complete the thought with my own words.

. . . I acknowledge that the Word is already in play. (Tripp)

Heidegger argued that the Greek term logos, which we translate “word” means “to gather together.” Heidegger believed the Greeks understood the word as a cohesive, gathering force. I’ve been playing with that idea for several months now during these retirement wanderings, and have grown fond of the idea.

My simple thought for the morning is this–upon waking in the pre-dawn and looking out on the beauty of the Colorado morning, I realized that though the hour was early, the Word was already organizing my thoughts, my day, my life.

Hope that doesn’t sound too esoteric. I am filled with good notions this morning.

Thanks for reading. I have a date with rainbow trout . . .