Tag Archives: Deliberate Life

THE NEXT SEVEN

This past September fishingpoet quietly reached the 7 year mark. There’s nothing really noteworthy about year seven. There’s no precious stone, metal, material, or heavy-weight paper associated with it. And it’s not a milestone like my 21st, 30th, 40th, or (not-so-far-off) 50th birthday. But it is a seven year (and counting) journey of stories in various forms about my experience on this earth. A perspective shaped by family and friends, fortunate adventures, the sting of mistakes and rough life changes, the love of an amazing woman, and the necessary medicine of the outdoors. Surveying the Ranch - Henry's Fork And it was this blog that initially motivated me to start making some changes in my life. Going independent was one of them.

When I made the decision to leave the ad agency world to be an independent writer, I had no idea how many other aspects of my life would change because of a change in vocation. Honestly, I think that step was a subconscious acknowledgement that there were a lot of things that I knew were wrong, or that I was struggling with in my life personally and professionally–but didn’t want to admit.

Heading out on my own wound up forcing me to finally face those problems: just how soul-less work was, that my (now ex-) wife and I were on irreparably different paths, that I was a lousy dad, that I had pushed my family, friends, and passions away, and that I was the furthest thing from being happy. But heading out on my own also showed me that I am fully capable of correcting my trajectory. And while it was downright painful, frustrating, and scary at times, I discovered that it’s ok. Those things don’t last. The things that matter do.

Personally, in the last 5+ years as an independent (and 3+ years since my divorce), I’ve become a better dad, son, friend, and recently, a husband again. I’ve always known the importance of keeping what’s important foremost in my life. Living a Deliberate Life. But I’m finally realizing the happiness and fullness that comes with actually following through on that sentiment. Talking about it and doing it are two drastically different things. Sometimes it takes a little while to grow into those shoes.

Professionally, I’m still writing ad copy to pay the bills, but I’m also a staff writer for a local magazine, produced a couple short films, and teach a class in Literary Magazine Publishing (which actually publishes a national lit mag) at our local Junior College.

I know that I’m lousy at following the expected or prescribed path. Before my professional life congealed around writing, I had a work history that reflected just how hard I was searching for my direction. Any direction. Even now, I still keep my vocation diverse. Some of that, I’m sure, is due to my Tourette Syndrome and the OCD/impulse control issues/depression/anxiety that it comes with. But to me, life is not set in stone. It never was. It’s fluid and full of color and sound, chance and passion.

I’m not living capriciously, or simply following whims. What I am doing is looking for ways to be a better human in this life. More present, grateful, and empathetic–be it personally or professionally. People call it reinventing themselves. I like to think that it’s less reinvention and more evolving and adapting. I’m a husband, father, and friend. I’m a storyteller, outdoorsman, and teacher. At the end of the day, I’m not changing any of those things. I’m finding different ways to re-balance them so that I’m able to pull the lot together into a greater whole that makes a difference in the lives of others.

So, that said, I’m re-balancing things. Starting with this blog, which I’ve sorely neglected this past year. I’m getting back to storytelling on a regular basis and I’m expanding my range to include the stories of others. I’ll still write about my travels and time outside with my wife and kids. I’ll still have poetry, photography, and maybe the occasional video. But I’m going to start bringing to life the stories of others. People that I admire, that I want to know more about. Well-known and unknown. People whose stories I feel you should hear because they are valuable.

There will be some from the fly fishing/hunting/conservation realm, but I want to push myself, and you, my reader, to see the field more. I feel like sometimes all I see or read or hear has to do with fly fishing or hunting (and lately, the hatred that has surfaced since the election). This is not a complaint, just an observation that Social Media really spoon-feeds us the content it feels most relevant. We’re not one-trick ponies, so I want to challenge that. Get my head back on a swivel and be deeply curious again about this world and the wealth of stories and experience that people hold. It’s about understanding and celebrating just how different, and yet the same, we all are. And I’m hoping you’ll stay saddled-up for the ride.

While I do my “recruiting” for the first run of people I have in mind, I’m going to start posting interviews that I’ve done for POST Magazine with a really cool range of people in the Rochester area. They run the gamut from one of the most revered jazz/pops conductors in the world to a craftsman that builds Adirondack-style canvas canoes to an airbrush artist that specializes in high-end chopper graphics. And I hope you take something away from each as a reader, as I did spending time with them.

I very much appreciate your readership. Always have.
Here’s to the next seven. And everything after.

 

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WEST TO WATER

 

Midway from Chicago to LA it still hasn’t hit me. Sprawling canyon, salt flat, scrub brown and mountains crawl below. I carried on three fly rods and a book of Jim Harrison’s poetry. Our platinum blond, plump-lipped stewardess calls me Skippy. She won’t take cash for a beer.

**
Here, I am slow motion. Layers of break-neck life peeling away. I know it’s the wide-open expanse of frontier plainsong. Forever rolling and howling as the speedometer pushes 85 and The Grateful Dead wander their highway through Althea in Nassau. I am small here.

**
Gas station coffee, grain elevators, rail cars, Friday night lights, onions, grapes, magpies, llamas, cottonwood groves, sunflowers, sage, corn, wheat, cattle, chukar, grouse, desert quail, winding roads, canyon, famous potatoes. One lone strip club hiding over the county line.

**
Hot copper-white and sage canyon floor. We sit in camp chairs with beers, grilling meat for lunch in the weak shade of a nearby tree. Driftwood and brush flood-woven eight feet up in its branches. On the other side of the willows the desert river pretends to mind its own business.

**
4 a.m. Roadside sage and gravel shoulder chase the curving road, a cold ghost-gray in our headlights. We make the Sawtooth Basin by sunup. Eggs, sausage, homemade white toast and coffee in Stanley. Outside, thin smoke from a small late summer campfire, quiet talk, mountains. It’s 27o.

**
To get here, switchbacks had us coming and going. We park on the shoulder outside Lowman, pull on waders and step-skid-step to the water. This seventy yard stretch runs twelve feet deep and gin clear right from the edge. Sun finds us at 10:38. Smoke from last season’s fire a thin film in the air.

**
We spot a moose as we haul the jet boat down Highway 26. Big black body in full stride a half-mile out into Swan Valley’s amber waves of grain. Her pine and brush foothills another quarter-mile off. A combine leads a yellow dust cloud across the next immense field. The sky looks like rain.

**
Mack truck river hauling the ass-end of mammoth runoff. There’s no thinking at this pace. We drift, I sling. Wail full-on gun-shots into slack eddies, under thick brush, against cliff wall undercuts and grass-sand banks. Swings and short-strikes. Dusk drops on our run back to Conant.

**
I know he’s going to take before he does. Everything’s right. Cast, distance, depth, slower- than-river-speed drift, Folsom Prison Blues playing in my head. The fly touches bottom a couple times, tumbles from the riffle into the pale green. I look him in the face, good one he says. Good one.

**
An hour-and-a-half drive north. The sun burns off the morning haze and the Tetons get to their feet. Riverside parking and talk of big fish. Forty minutes downstream from the truck, we scramble from a game trail into the river. At thigh deep, I’m the knife at a gunfight.

**
From where I stand, frontiersmen once contemplated their purpose in this landscape, the panorama of destiny. Motionless, forty yards into the river, a small whirling eddy in my shadow. Perspective. The wide arc of a distant osprey. Big fish rise carelessly, thinking the coast is clear.

**
Mesa Falls, Ashton, Rexburg, Rigby fill our rearview mirror. Windows down, simmering late-afternoon sun, we’re on the other end of the gauntlet and there’s nothing pressing to say. The last eight days packed tight in my tired, calloused hands, ready to throw like a sneaky left in the final round.

**
Snake, Payette, Salmon, Henry’s Fork, Owyhee—forever in my blood. These days and miles and fish and landscapes are forever in my blood. Tomorrow is 9/11 and our flight back east. Tonight we drink bucket-beers at the stock car races. I feel like a good fight or some Howlin’ Wolf but I’m hungry and still have to pack.

**
12:20 a.m. Wheels-down in Rochester. Shuttle ride to the car, Army duffel, pack and rods at my feet, two frowning wives cluck about Yellowstone’s rustic amenities. One husband nods, Good fishing? I nod back. Montana? he asks. Idaho. My voice is 10-day gravel and far from being home.

 

(Originally published in Volume 4, Issue 2 of the Flyfish Journal)

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Filed under On the water, The road