Monday, February 11, 2013

Gravity- That Insane Pull that is the Tug and Not the Drug

Gravity at work on a gray day. Thomas Menas photo

We tumbled down the banks, Tom and I. We tumbled down because we had to. It's gravity, pure and simple, and this most elemental of laws is what had brought us here- gravity, downward flow, the lowest common denominator; finding our center, being grounded.

Winter is enough to drive you insane, but doubly so in this modern era of Global Something. There's nothing to rely on- no cold, no snow, no -30 mornings, nothing anymore except gravity. It pulls me and Tom down hill even as it pulls the water downstream. Gravity is what pulls steelhead upstream- we hope. Fishing can probably be measured by the same forces as flight. Lift vs. gravity, thrust vs. drag. Lift is my attitude when approaching a river vs. the ever downward flow of the river, and the odds that I may not catch fish; thrust is the tail of a steelhead vs. my drag.

So Tom and I tumbled inexorably down hill like the waters themselves, propelled onward by unreasonable optimism, and checked by the drag of no fish to be found, hitting our heads against the stonewall reality of midwinter blah and such. Gray skies, an east wind, and nothing to show for our efforts.

We regrouped a bit later, discussed what was wrong. The kids on the hill opposite us hailed us repeatedly. I answered them in a mocking voice, and they either didn't pick up on my sarcasm or chose to ignore it. They called out over and over again, their voices echoing off the valley walls, while one dutiful adult supervised the dragging of sleds, and presumably the wiping of noses, gravity again to blame on both counts.

Gravity is our friend and nemesis. It keeps the rivers flowing and the steelhead pointed upstream. It keeps me headed to the rivers and fights me when I try to leave. Perhaps it's the reason I hate to leave a river- it's just too much damn work. Every river has an escape velocity. Fly fishing has an escape velocity, an unknown number, incalculable. Fly tying is a black hole, measured only by the X-rays escaping its event horizon. Fly casting is ruled by physics and quantum theory. Carp fishing is measured in nanometers. Night time browns are measured in cricket chirps, coyote howls and "Hexes". Dead Rodents is also an acceptable answer.

Tom and I banged our heads against the cosmic constant; we fought gravity and the current and lost, while the fish, with their snouts pointed bravely into the current, ignored us. So we fought gravity, and deep snow, thick swamp, spring seeps and steep banks; we found our escape velocity of that moment, freed ourselves from the river, the rain, and the ever-growing gray of a storm in February. We re-grouped, discussed our options, discussed our futures in this brave world of fly fishing- we fought gravity, that ever downward force, the beckoning mediocrity that says "get a real job, be responsible; dreams are just that".

my buddy Tom, fighting gravity

There is no pull greater than the reality of our lives. We get one shot at this. If you're not out there experiencing this planet you are just another satellite circling the globe, passively exchanging information, until gravity disrupts your orbit. At least you'll go out in a blaze of glory, and if you're lucky you'll make a pock-mark in the Saharan sands. Me, I'm circling this globe, searching for my center, hoping for escape velocity. Fly fishing is the center of my world, my black hole. I hope I never escape.


  1. Very cool post....It leaves me with a lot to ponder.

  2. This seems to be a theme I've seen lately in a few other blogs as well. Now you've got me thinking and I need to figure out if I'm going to go out in a blaze of glory or not.

  3. I've noticed as I get older that gravity has taken a fierce hold on my ability to remain upright. Either that or my ability to soften the landing has slowed down dramatically. Jury is still out on that.

    As I've been reminding my other aging angling friends lately, gravity is a bitch so be careful out there.