The whip and hiss of the fishing pole, followed by the thunking kerplink of the lure. He stands on the gray rocks down by the water casting with the very last of the light. Whip and hiss. Whip and hiss. The rhythm peaceful and natural and the man is calm in his own mind, and it is only him and the pole and the lake.
Deep dusk is quickly descending on this mountain lake and it is almost night. The sky behind me is quickly closing in on that deep dark blue that appears just before the stars start to peek and shine. In front of me it is electric royal blue, like the sun is giving me one last glimpse of the day before tomorrow starts my way.
Whip. Hiss. Kerplink.
The air has changed and autumn is coming on. There is a bite in it that makes me glad for the corduroy coat that I have on and for the deep pockets that hold my keys and camera that I periodically jam my nipped and rosy fingers down into.
I breathe deep and smell grass and leaves, dirt, water, trees, cattle and the promise of cold mixed with the last breaths of warm summer air. It smells like the mountains in September. It smells like memories, and nostalgia and longing ring in my heart and make it ache a little.
I turn. What quiet. What peace. My mind calms and stops whirring and clanking, it stops spinning and solving. I stop. I stand. I breathe. I simply am.
He stands, feet on rocks, arm drawn to the side, the pole extending.
This man stands in the peace of day that comes at the end of dusk. He stands where he has always wanted to be. He has been traveling here all day long. Through the chores and responsibilities, he has been driving himself to this reward. He has arrived. He is alone, toes over the water for one last cast.
Whip. Hiss. Kerplink.
The sizzle of drawing the line back in as it whips across the water, droplets, that in the light would be silver diamonds, but in the night are invisible as they flit and fling from the line back into the lake. He secures the line, and before turning to scramble across the now-black rocks to the pebbled and sandy shore, takes a long look at the dark lake, rimmed by mountains full of scrub brush and sage, mule deer and sleeping rattlers and I know that in a primal way he is home.
We climb the mountainside and back up to the sandy parking lot. I look at the mountains again as the last of the daylight fades away behind them, and night has arrived with all of her midnight majesty and so true evening begins.
In our headlights we see fat, fluffy rabbits startled out of the road by the noise and vibrations of our car. In a bunny panic they hop and dash to the side of the road, scrambling into overgrown brush with dried and silvered grass that has greened temporarily before the cold snap of fall comes on. I'm hoping they don't mis-hop the wrong way and back into the road before we move on past. They don't, and live another bunny day.
Our lights slip and flash across old trees and into their shadows, slicing across pieces of field and fence and mountain. I think about pioneers and mountain men and Indians and explorers, about pirates, renegades and bandits. I reflect on the wildness and danger of exploration and discovery, of the fear and excitement that accompanies the wilds and the forests, the oceans, the night and the unknown.
Half stories and memories of tall tales combine with my imagination and I think about hiding and camping in the deep clusters of trees. I think of drawing cold creek water in a wooden bucket or a tin pan to drink, to wash, and to cook with. I think of wagons and horses and canoes, of homes with sod roofs, of the smell of campfire, coffee and exhaustion. I think of how hard it was to live and how easy it was to die. I think of my ancestors and ancient peoples. My thoughts deepen as our car slides on.
Ahead our lights catch the silvered startled light in the eyes of a deer. He is perfect and turned towards us, his ears perked and standing straight up, his radar detector for danger. We slow. We marvel. He pauses and then in a bound and a dash is gone, jumping and crashing back into the night. We glide on.
We emerge from the back road onto the highway and we are deep in the valley of the mountains and the night is black and purple and navy blue. I feel like I am in the deep of a gorge as the stars begin to rise and glimmer and spark high above our heads.
We drive in the shadows like reivers snaking along on our bellies, our tires whispering and whirring as we speed along streaking the dark with our lights. In black relief the mountains stand sentry around us as we slide through the valley and down the canyon. The night continues to rise and I watch the stars as they begin to pepper the sky in groups and in clusters and some in solitary. This is mountain night and it is beautiful and black and ancient. There is no light pollution from the city and you can imagine yourself in days long gone by and what that loneliness and peace must have been like.
Chris Knight croons in gravel in the background, telling us stories of hard times and broken people, and is soon joined by Waylon and Willie adding their own dash of humor and melancholy, until we are joined by a recording of the lonely, haunted howls of the true Rebel Yell, which is Celtic and Indian and lonely and desperate and wild.
And so my mind falls back in time again to a wilder place, a wilder time, where death and life were cradle-mates and not so distant from us. There was work and love and life and justice was a luxury and people clawed and scrapped and fought and choked on their last breath to survive and to be free.
The mountains crowd and cradle me in their vastness and the stars shine and fill my eyes with their eternity as the road continues to rush on beneath me.
We decide to stop for gas in a tiny, side of the road mountain valley town. Its only nine o'clock, but it feels more like 3 a.m. I feel suspended in time somehow, disconnected from everything current as I float between memory, history and opportunity. My mind is full and wild and alive.
Sometimes when I'm out on the road, and the highway is whistling in my ears and the road stretches out in my eyes, I don't want to stop for gas or food or rest, because the people are there... and reality is there... and social constraints are there... their noise is there, and even if only briefly until I get on the road again, the magic will end.
We fill the tank and I feel the pull of the road, the call of adventure, the desire to run wild from one electric living moment to the next. I don't want to stop. I don't want to go home. I want to be free together. I want to road trip. I want to write. I want to take pictures. I want to breathe free. I want to swim in the ocean. I want to read stories of myth and magic and legend. I want to be somewhere that doesn't exist anymore.
In this madness that threatens to consume me I realize that I am here and now. I realize that this is my time and these are my people. I realize that there is a connection between past and present in me that makes this wildness explode and I am happy to be me. I can be and do all of these things that bring my blood to life. These things that fuel my mind are good and wild and free.