It usually takes me thirty of thirty-five
minutes to drive to work. This gives me time
to think, and usually I find myself involved
in silent conversation with myself concerning
what may happen to be the story for the following
week's column. Here lately, I find nothing but
traffic-filled roads ahead, glaring headlights
in the morning darkness, and a slight melancholic
feeling as I miss the river I normally visit.
As Norman Maclean writes in the end of
A River Runs Though It, "I am
haunted by waters."
I'm sure, well, probably sure, the majority of
northern folks see Florida as a tropical paradise;
palm trees and sunsets, warm breezes blowing
inland, and some of the times, as dictated by
location, this is true, just not 24/7. Maybe it's
not cold here, as compared to the upper or western
reaches of the United States, but I was born to
Florida, and by all means, to me...it's cold. Of
course, I get a chill if it gets below sixty, and
I find myself not being able to function normally.
Okay, so I'm a wuss. But given the opportunity,
come on down here in August when the temps outside
match the humidity and you will find "Old Flats"
as comfortable as a bug in a rug.
Last week, the temps dropped into the upper
twenties. That's just wrong! I didn't go out
of the house, except to cover the palms and
other tropical plants. But to see me adorned
in waders and a flyrod in my hand heading out
to cast at rising fish? That ain't going to
happen. Besides, my idea of a "hatch coming
off" is a door to a bulkhead in an offshore
boat coming unscrewed.
So just like Roger Stouff and Dave Micus, we
have to look at everything as being an essay
for next week, and the week after, and so on
and so on.
Stories sometimes smack me right up side my head.
Others have to be searched out, still there, but
hiding, existing in crevices deeply embedded.
I could write fiction, but that doesn't come
naturally to me. Well, with the exception to
"An Old Man and a Lure" that came about a few
months ago. That one was kind of weird. It seemed
as if "John Sellers" just stepped into my truck
as I was on the way to the bank to make a car
payment. He just appeared right there beside me,
smoking his pipe, and tapped me on the shoulder,
introduced himself, then instructed me to write
the story. I have no clue where he came from,
but I think he really once lived down there.
There are the stories that happened a year ago,
or many years ago, that I relive and put down
on paper. I sometimes worry if they are good
enough for my readers. Of course there are events
that take place from time to time that are
unexpected. These are usually the ones that
come from deep within my soul and are sad, for
example, "Ripples" and "Max." They are stories
I write to help me cope with losses in my life.
They flow from me in the same way backcountry
waters rush to the sea, then return again,
cleansed. I usually can't go back and reread
them, they are filled with emotion and they
make me sad.
I keep driving down this road on my way to work;
thinking and searching within, trying to remember
where I put the mental tape that may show a trip,
or a glimpse into my past that would possibly
be entertaining enough to catch a few readers.
But this morning, I find nothing but the long
drive in the dark.
I notice the once-virgin, full moon hanging
above the St. Johns River casting a lonely and
pale reflection on the northbound waters. I even
look for a story there, as the bridge taps out
a rhythm under my tires. I feel empty. Maybe
there's a crease in my soul's continuum that
has disturbed my feelings of security this
morning. Something just isn't right.
Wanting to turn back towards home to bury
my head beneath the covers and hide from
everyone, I reluctantly keep driving. Maybe
somewhere down this road a story remains
hidden, then appearing from beneath the
shadows of the cypress trees where the moon's
glow can not reach. I strain my eyes in their
direction, seeking answers to my obsessions.
Maybe I'm looking too hard at what is really
there and just not seeing it. Maybe, just
maybe the spirits of things past have gone
away no longer to visit here, or they too
are hiding around the banks of the river and
in the marsh that is cloaked from my sight
this early morning. Maybe. Maybe I've allowed
this melancholy to seep into areas deep within
me, and it's just my imagination playing mean
tricks on my outlook of the positive, maybe.
I drive on. Looking.
See y'all next week. ~ Capt. Gary
Gary grew up in central Florida and spent much
of his youth fishing the lakes that dot the area.
After moving a little closer to the coast, his
interests changed from fresh to salt. Gary still
visits his "roots" in the "lake behind the house."
He obtained his captain's license in the early '90's
and fished the blue waters of the Atlantic for a little
over twelve years. His interests in the beautiful shallow
water flats in and around the famous Mosquito Lagoon came
around twenty-five years ago. Even though Captain Gary
doesn't professionally guide anymore, his respect of the
waters will ever be present.
Gary began fly fishing and tying mostly saltwater
patterns in the early '90's and has participated as
a demo fly tier for the Federation of Fly Fishers
on numerous occasions. He is a private fly casting
and tying instructor and stained glass artist,
creating mostly saltwater game fish in glass.