Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A River Runs Through It


I should have entitled this post Norman Maclean Appreciation Day because I recently re-read his novella A River Runs Through It, and I'm basking in the afterglow.

Maclean's tale of "an American family" resonated with me, bringing memories of my own fisherman father to the surface. I identify with so many of the elements within this story, such as: not understanding the people in your own family, being baffled by the choices they make and yet, trying to love them anyway, and strangely, often the simplest activities, like fly-fishing, develop our strongest bonds.

My dad was an excellent outdoorsmen. Think of James Fenimore Cooper's character Natty Bumppo, and you wouldn't be far off the mark. Anticipation crackling in the air, he and my two brothers would hastily pack their gear in the truck with artistic efficiency and set off for their adventures in the Oregon wilderness. Dad was a busy executive as well as a military man and his work called him to faraway countries for many months of the year. But when he was home, he made time to fish.

I was allowed to go on a few occasions, and it was magic. Wild horses, rattlesnakes, purplish-blue ravines, and fast-flowing water. Remembering those days, I see my father in his prime casting a line across the river to the sun-dappled depths of a rocky pool. Although he's been gone for some 30 years, I have only to think back, and I still see him there.

That shared, perhaps you can appreciate why I love this section of Maclean's writing . . .

"Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.
Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn't. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.
Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. That river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters."




18 comments:

  1. An absolutely beautiful post! I didn't want it to end. I totally loved how you tied it all together. Yes, a river runs through it.

    Thank You!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this post! A River Runs Through It, both the novella and the film are two of my absolute favorites. Those ending paragraphs are the best part (especially when Robert Redford speaks them at the end of the film). There is such a sad remembrance in those words that you know only the writer himself could ever truly understand. When I write, I am always brought back to those paragraphs and sense a similar voice resonating in my own work. Thank you so much for sharing!

    ♥ Mary Mary

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so beautiful, the kind of writing I aspire to. Thank you for posting it and reminding me why it is important to work so hard!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautiful post, Roxy. My own father used to fish, salt water. He taught my brothers but not me. (Why do you want to learn to fish? You're a girl.) My task was to clean them but I wouldn't so he usually gave them away.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a world I know nothing about... But your post brings it alive. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. A super post. I loved the pace and simple conviction of the book, and your identification with it is wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your post caught my eye because of the fishing. My parents loved to fish. I have many happy memories going with them. Thanks for reminding me of this novel.

    FYI: My new romantic suspense, River Whispers, comes out in May. As you can tell by the titled, a river plays a big part in my novel, so anything about fishing will hook me (yep, I went for the pun). :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh Roxy!!! Now I really must read the novella too!!

    What a wonderful memory of your dad!!

    Families are funny entities aren't they? They drive you crazy but are also a rich source of profound inspiration! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  9. You're right that does sound like a magical book. I'm going to have to look-up Norman Maclean. I think American writers have such a way of describing people and nature.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beautiful. I love the last line: 'I am haunted by waters'.

    That will stick with me for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This was a lovely post. I, too, loved the last line.

    I've heard such good things about this book. After reading this post, I'm putting it on my to-read list!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've never read this novella but I shall put it on my to-read list. I enjoyed the image of your father. You're such a gifted writer, Roxy, you can make me see pretty much anything. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Gosh this was gorgeous. I've never read this but I will now. Beautiful! I love how you connect to your father with fishing. There are so many little things that remind me of my father, little things that I never really noticed until he was gone. Thank you for this :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Roxy, this is such a beautiful post! My father also loved to fish (and so did my grandfather).

    So well written, thank you! =D

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's an incredible closing line, which was in the movie also. I saw the movie, which I loved, but didn't read the book. Now after reading this post, I want to read it! Thanks. And thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment about my winning opening paragraph. I'm curious, now, to see how A River Runs Through It begins. I love this: "Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them." This is the voice of memoir, my favorite genre. Beautiful indeed!
    Ann Best, Author

    ReplyDelete
  16. There is so much I don't know about you! I am always so amazed as I learn all these new little details from your past. I like the image I have of your father in my mind. He would be a good character. Flawed, but human in so many profound ways.

    ReplyDelete
  17. O I loveeed this film. My husband fishes and my father was also a fisherman.

    ReplyDelete