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."