Housatonic — Once we’d either fished out or scattered the flaccid, corn-fed stocked trout, we’d turn up from the river to the woodland brooks which, having run their spate, wandered down the hillsides, pool-to-tumbling water to pool under the pine shadows and into the valley.
We knew the stream as Icy Brook. The trout we sought were natives, eight or ten skittish inches long, and pink as salmon. The day was a success if we caught one or two.
Fishing in the brook involved no casting from a wide bank, but rather poking a long bamboo pole through the small brush growing along the bank and dangling a pink worm under bank-side rocks. We raised our own worms in boxes of compost. Adding a little brick dust brightened our bait.
Then we sat, more patiently than we ever could have through a school lesson or a sermon and, if we got no bites, moved quietly to the next pool.
I can’t remember and won’t even imagine our being speculative or even thoughtful amid the silence. But far enough into the woods, away from any civilized noise, it was simple to sit still and be aware of what might be going on around you.
Since the brook was too small for us to fish together, we usually didn’t even see each other once we’d stashed our bikes until the end of the afternoon when we headed home.
When trying to write about the brook previously, I’ve called the traveling “a long and dreamy journey,” the brook itself “short on length and empty of fascination.”
That wasn’t it at all. Instead of something wistful, metaphorical, the trip was no more than a helter-skelter bicycle race to get to the brook first to claim the best pools.
And maybe trying to show off my wordsmith skills, I imagined myself as seeker of a deeper truth. “It’s not the journey, or the destination, but it was I the traveler, who might have lost a little of my way.”
Instead, walking by the brook these days, I see it’s diminished, in fact disappeared in places, trickling through culverts under driveways and the road.
Sure, I’ve changed, but my present experience has nothing to do with losing my way. Instead, it’s no more than a pleasant walk past a place I remember well and wonder as I passed by how, over the years, it had become what it is today.