Thursday, April 20, 2017

Responding to Spring

In almost every respect spring is as close to a blessing as I can expect. But I've noticed some challenges with it, probably more my own making, and wanted to try to understand them better by writing them down. They are not negative things. 

A lesser irritant, and as obvious as it gets, is noted principally for the benefit of friends in temperate climes whose seasons blend together. In New England, spring explodes from a status of absolute dormancy. Throughout winter, December through March, the woods appear lifeless gray, lawns a dry brown if not covered by feet of white. Everything shuts down and hides away (why we don’t, I don’t know. Evolution should correct for this eventually?) Then, in April, all life appears – and with it a mass of pollen and seeds coat the car, and everything else, in dense green dust. Spring is as much a deluge as winter snow. Eyes smart, throats scratch, and energy lags, such is the effect on the body. It’s a small price for what’s unfolding, of course. Color from monochrome; life affirming in real time, reliable and rightly celebrated every year as a good thing. But nothing here emerges so we can truly savor it. Spring here is sudden, and we need to respond.

Striped bass are moving from major rivers and from far south, and they’re here now in the local salt marsh. Flowering Forsythia and chirping osprey chime with this spread of fish, motivated by blooming grass shrimp and tight shoals of alewives. For the first time since autumn my clock sets to local tide cycles. Narrow windows have to be juggled with work, family obligations, and maturing laziness. To be present for the turn of high tide at my place is a quiet wonder that goes unnoticed by people driving past, and I want to be there. Inland a distance from Long Island Sound and connected by channels and bends, the marsh’s full water level is delayed and difficult to measure, with slack high tide hesitant the briefest of moments before tilting away. Such a large movement in the earth’s behavior, all happening so peacefully and without fuss, appeals to me greatly. [In fact, as I explain this to my son, I'm describing how the tide on the outer, Sound-ward side of the marsh turns a full two hours before the tide on the inside of the marsh, such that water is going out and coming in all at once in the same body of water within the space of a half mile. If you don't agree that this is wonderful, I fear you've read too far]. Full high tide and one half hour after it should happen at dusk to be just right at this place, but when this will actually happen involves guesswork that requires time and thought that are beyond me. What's certain is that the windows of opportunity grow too late, as they are tonight, and I’m left with the awkward knowledge that the fish are there to be caught, but not by me. 

I should take up ice fishing to smooth out the year and lessen the sudden spring, but for now nothing in winter can truly be called tempting. Spring, then, brings double the commitment as the need to hook striped bass verges on necessity, or at least this seems to be emphasized the more I fish alone. It's a very welcome and intoxicating arrangement that still surprises and excites me every year.  

Tight lines,