Whip Finish


Ralph Long - May 2, 2016

Dusk was close on our heels as my youngest son and I removed our waders after a long day of fishing and turned to gathering our belongings. We had enjoyed a day on near perfect water, under blue skies and no wind. The icing on the cake was the 4 fish we landed. Jake had gone fish-less on this day, but not for lack of trying. He fished like a champ the entire day, but the Piscatorial Gods were just not on his side. I was immensely proud of him however, as I watched him gain maturity with his casting and his understanding of the streams flow. Not bad for 12 years old. I reached for my rod in order to break it down when I saw them. He watched as I tracked a bug" through the air, then caught it with the back of my hand. There, in the fading light sat a Blue Quill.

Admiring it, there was no wonder why it is that prose has been heaped upon the Mayfly for as long as folks have been putting quill to parchment. Aristotle couldn't help but reference the mayfly as did the German engraver Albrecht Durer in 1495, presenting them as a link between heaven and earth. As Ephemera denotes something that only exists or is enjoyed for a brief time, such is the mayfly. Each spring the Blue Quill arrives, which is to me the essence of the beauty nature embodies. They are all feminine in line and similar in stature. But the Blue Quill seems to carry the best of all of them. So we stood looking at it, propped up in its classic regal form, with lead grey wings held upright by a seemingly frail thorax and legs, yet sculpted without flaw. The thin slate grey abdomen with just a hint of dusty olive, arched gracefully and tapering to perfectly formed tails. As we looked on I caught my son's eyes following it. Such an insignificant object for a young boy, yet as is the nature of the mayfly; it held his gaze for longer than an opened bag of skittles, which in itself is high praise for a bug. I gave a brief explanation of the blue quill, which received a smirk of acknowledgment, which again is high-praise for a Dad, and then in proper ephemera fashion it was gone.

Nothing more was said about the Mayfly on the ride to the house, but my mind was wedged somewhere between the days fishing and that blue quill. And as is to be expected, I searched for the nugget of gold that was there for the mining. As we talked I mentioned that I really wanted him to land at least one fish. He agreed, saying so did he but it was still fun, commenting that being there when I landed a fish was exciting too. I could appreciate that since I get more from his fish than my own. It was then the nugget of gold hit me like a nine-pound hammer. As the mayfly we are all here for such a short time. Though longer than the lifespan of a mayfly hopefully, we are in "places" in our lives for a very short time. That Blue Quill was fortunate for the calm weather, no wind and lack of fish watching the surface of the water. They received a most fortunate "short time". While that in no way saved them from the perils of swallows through dusk, it did give them a leg up on their flight.

The key is, to make the most of where you find yourself. All things considered, we are only 12 years old for a short time and our moments as the Dad of a 12 year old are equally as short in parallel. We need to acknowledge and embrace those moments, fleeting as they are. So quickly the world can go from no wind and blue skies to evading swallows at dusk, or the nose of life rises up from below and sucks you in. Relish the moment when you notice he is tracing your footsteps across the stream as you wade. And smile when you hear the mournful query of "Dad?" which makes you leave rising fish to retrieve his line from the trees behind him.

Yours is as the Blue Quill lighting upon a hand….beautiful in the moment.


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