The Enemy of the Good Enough

After months of studying things like acid mine drainage and nitrate fouling and harmful invasives and general degradation of our remaining wild landscapes and how people fight for them and how people first decided they were worth fighting for and how those first people argued for them; and why people care or don’t or calculate risk or generally value wildness or don’t; and trying to determine how I value it and how I can share that value with others, if that’s even possible; pages of notes, stacks of books, megabytes of maps; alternating frustration and hope with no good basis to judge the merit of either — all this leads naturally to a strong desire to escape to a wild place, while they’re still around. Some urgency creeps in. Frustration with the nine-to-five. So I try to remind myself: right now, take what can be had close to home.

Like the suburban pond that’s within easy portage distance, about thirty rods, of our garage. On a 1902 topographic map it’s the center of a wetland network; today it’s in the center of a mixed-zoning section of Roseville, Minn., and it gathers apartment and office building runoff.  But if it’s still good enough for nesting wood ducks, and blue and green and white herons, and muskrats struggling to push huge mouthfuls of spring greens, then it ought to be good enough for my wife and I to stretch our paddling muscles.

And like the local trout. The stream is busy with anglers and muddy pathways, and despite decades of restoration is still subject to poisonous agricultural runoff. But if it’s good enough for two thousand trout per mile, a few caddis and blue-wings in partly-sunny late April, and the bald eagle cruising the valley huge and silent inside the close riparian tunnel, then it ought to be good enough for my wife and I to work upstream with size 16 CDC & Elks and maybe raise every hundredth fish.

The lesson I am trying to learn here is: don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the close-to-home and good-enough-for-today.

How to Buy a Fly Rod

Here we have a pair of Minnesota fly anglers on a week-long June dry-fly trip across northern Michigan. Weather-beaten and unbathed, in damp waders and muddy boots, they’ve stopped at Gates Au Sable Lodge mid-afternoon for a cheeseburger and some flies. As we join them they are on the grass in front of the shop. One of them is casting a well-worn but beautiful rod, while the other holds the sock and tube.

TOM:  Geez, I like it. What do you think?

ADAM:  It’d be the nicest rod I own.

TOM:  Me too. But you’re the one shopping. Wow, that does feel nice.

ADAM:  No I’m not. I don’t need a new four weight.

TOM:  Here, give it another cast or two. How often do you get to test-drive a used Thomas & Thomas? Check out the hand-painted logo.

ADAM:  I guess it would make a good souvenir. To go along with my signed book.

TOM:  Now you’re talking. And it would be perfect for those Southeast Minnesota streams.

ADAM:  Also true. Are you seeing these loops?

TOM:  It makes us look like good casters.  You know, we’re only a few minutes from the Holy Waters. You could buy it and we could go christen it right now, before we have to post up for the night.

ADAM:  Can’t argue with that.

Transitions

Fishing to hunting; fall to winter; fog to frost.

Catch-and-release to shoot-and-eat.

Night to day, and back to night: northern Minnesota’s November daylight period is such that an angler or a hunter daily witnesses both the sun’s rise and set, and not through an office window.

Natural rhythms are felt deeply.

Yearly traditions of people and places, touchstones, tell us of those things that change and those don’t.

Slow Down, They Say

Excerpted from midcurrent.com:

There is a stoplight on my way to work that happens to be in front of a mortuary. There are always a few flatbed trucks idling in the lot, each loaded with one or two wrapped pastel-colored caskets, waiting for the morning delivery manifest. more “Slow Down, They Say”