Archive for the ‘Guideposts’ category

Literary Connections…


My good friend and fellow aquatic hauntee, George Jacox, posted earlier today about books, specifically fly-fishing books he liked.  He elaborated a bit on his main thesis.  George’s post drew a rather agreeable comment from our common friend, William (Bill) Schudlich.  Bill’s comments got me to thinking.  First off I just had to make this comment:

Shoot, y’all just named half my ‘special selections’ library’.

As well as the Maclean books – I re-read each of Middelton’s book’s mentioned by Sir Willie of Schudville .. and I do hope one day to get a copy of Rivers of Memory.  I so want to read this book! And – if I my ship stops sinking – MAYBE – a copy of, The Starlight Creek Angling Society! I would love to own this book. But I would just like to actually see, hold and read one!

I also totally agree that Traver (real name: John Voelker) books and stories are must reads; with Trout Madness and Trout Magic list high. Voelker was a personal friend of my good friend and colleague from the Traverse City , MI area, Dave Richey. When you speak with a person who actually had, on-the-water/in-the-woods, intimate knowledge of a legend like Voelker, you get a sense of just how much one can miss by not being in the same arena, venue or age. CARPE DIEM!

Then I got to thinking about other books – besides my shared enjoyment of those mentioned by George and Bill.  I started to go over some other books I’ve read – and re-read – over the past few years.  So a list began to form.  But not just a list.  What began to form was a much deeper meaning than just reading good books.  There was – and remains – an intimate relationship with the books I read, the people I know, icons I wish to meet, passions I love to pursue.

Especially any of the above fortunate enough to also coincide with just about any value on the subject of FLY FISHING.

It’s not merely about literary interest … it’s vastly more important than that!!

Here’s my addition to the conversation:

  • Anything by Thomas McGuane .. but especially The Longest Silence. This is a book title one should read, ponder and practice.
  • Paul Quinnett’s books: Pavlov’s Trout (the quintessential book on Outdoor Ethics!); Darwin’s Bass and Fishing Lessons (should be requisite for anyone taking to the water!  Paul is a clinical psychologist and developer of the QPR (Question, Persuade & Refer), Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention program. Paul knows a thing or two about the benefits of fly-fishing!
  • M.R. Montgomery’s, Many Rivers to Cross .. wonderfully imaginative – yet at times, heart rending – a culinary delight of Western fishing for it’s vanishing native lands, vistas, ecosystems and it’s most desirable, cold-water citizens.
  • Anything by David James Duncan .. most notably for it’s popularity – The River Why.  But, if you’ve not read his book, My Story as Told By Water – you have not found the reason for WHY, Maclean could write, “I am haunted by waters.” Read it and you, too, will find your explanation.
  • Every word written by John Gierach! PERIOD.  The guy is a veritable Pied Piper of Fly Fishing Story. There are few writers – from any genre – whom I can read and re-read their work – on any page, at any time – for any length of time … and enjoy it every time.  This magical aura surrounding Gierach’s writing never ceases to amaze me.  He’s constant in his ability to addict the reader.
  • And – not because this book is a piece of literary wonder, but because it keeps me in remembrance of a fine man, whom I miss very much: Tight Lines, Bright Water Water-  by Dave Engerbretson. It’s a good read about a man who loved, life and enjoyed helping others do the same: in all aspects possible in the grand outdoors: freshly mowed backyard or deep wilderness. There are still times- when I find it hard to believe I cannot just email or call this jolly fellow – my good friend – of such incredible aquatic pursuance knowledge. So, I annually re-read this book… and regularly scan it for tidbits of remembrance.  It’s a good habit that I shall continue to nurture.

If there’s a special outdoors/fishing/fly-fishing/hunting or whatever person, who has impacted your life; who is no longer living: if they’ve written a book – or if only a card, letter or left you with a recording or a simple phone message: revisit it:  often. Recall their ‘voice’; that energy that made them special in your life; to your life.  Keep their flame alive for you.  Then, Pass It On, to light the way for others.  Pass On… their remembrance to others, so they too, can get to know your special people.  Everyone needs to get to know special people. This is a priceless gift to the future.M/p>

Carpe Diem ! Seize every moment, every minute of every day – do so with gusto – and renew the definition of:

WHY? …

“…fly-fishing is such a magical place, with magical moments, made more wonderful, daily… by the magical relationships… between, man, water, fish, feather and fur.”  – Sam Stovepipe, Sage of Gar Island

Keep the passion going.  Read. Remember. Restore.

My Life As Told By Water, by David James Duncan

The River Why, by David James Duncan

Trout Bum, by John Geirach

Pavolov’s Trout, by Paul Quinnett

Darwin’s Bass, by Paul Quinnett

Fishing Lessons, by Paul Quinnett

The Longest Silence, by Thomas McGuane

Many Rivers To Cross, by M. R. Montgomery

Tight Lines, Bright Waters, by Dave Engerbretson

The Human 50-Yard Line


Have you begun to notice a change?

IF, you’re a new member of the 50-plus crowd, you’re likely seeing the world from a new perspective. No, I don’t mean just in your peers. I mean in – YOUR OWN – perception of life.

If we are lucky enough to live to the ripe young age of 50, we will experience with good fortune what I have come to know as, the indelible opportunity, to trip over what I am calling, The Human 50-Yard Line.

For years people have made, much adieu – or is it ado? – about what many feel is the near-death-sentence of stepping into the world beyond 50-years of age. Many feel this arrival begins a series of conclaves, held right on the door steps to the magic line of Age-50, that lead to a steep downhill slide into oblivion. In some minds this timeline is synonymous with a, ‘Stairway to Heaven”, for others, it’s more a, “Straight to Hell” venue.

But, since the average age is now pushed well into the 70s, for both men and women, 50, has become the doorway to Departures Unknown. And we’re not talking the need for the quick acquisition of ailerons or asbestos, either.

These Departures Unknown are new pathways, to new opportunities, not yet experienced. The likes of which, none of us, nor generations before us, could have imagined; back even, as little as 10 years ago. Amazing events and heights of accomplishment await all age brackets, as never before; especially those with the experiences gained through age.

There is, however, another element involved here. One with a much larger part-to-play than we could have ever imagined: The Human 50 Yard Line.

Take note of the discussions you now have among those of your peers; those whom you know to have – tripped over – The Human 50 Yard Line (H50YL).

This trip has become an important life-moment. It would seem this tripping event; quite unlike the tripping event(s) too many of our generation experienced back in the ’60s and ’70s; causes a curious sense of reassessment.  This reassessment, may be just enough to allow an unfamiliar ray-of-light into our consciousness, allowing us to peer through the cobwebs-of-time, into our library of personal experiences.

The trip, for many, is a  first time in our lives event. One that affords a fresh look at, “…what IS important in life.”

So, you may be asking:

  • “What is this ‘trip’, thing?”
  • “What is the Human 50-Yard Line?”

Easily enough the trip – is a life event. It’s likely a life-changing event. Such as

  • The loss or change of a long-held job;
  • News of a potentially lethal health problem;
  • Death of a mate, partner, spouse, close-family member;
  • Divorce;
  • Traumatic event in close-relationships;
  • Shattering of Life Held Beliefs;

Bottom line: the trip is something that rocks our world to its inner core and leaves us wondering, ‘What just happened to me?’ And when we gather our presence about us, we wonder again, ‘Where am I, now?’ We feel as if we’ve been dropped into a new and unfamiliar, hostile environment. One for which we had no concept of, or how to maneuver within.

What we don’t realize yet, is this: There is NO ESCAPE. We are now in a totally new realm, that has opened up in the midst of our previous world.

We are now unwitting; for some, very unwilling, members of – The world beyond 50.

The Human 50-Yard Line, is a timeline.

It is a period of time in ones life, taking place around the age of 50-years old. In the past we’ve heard it referred to as the ‘mid-life-crisis’. But it is far more than that. It truly is a period of sudden change in how life appears and flows for each person who lives to this age of life.

The timeline itself is a sliding point.  For some it can actually occur before they reach 50. But for most it falls between 50 and 53.  It’s a curious time in which our life experiences and our body’s mechanics reach a sort of, Nexus Point; a point of convergence; the intersection called, The Human 50-Yard Line. No, this one did NOT show up on our GPS map and it comes with little indication of which way to go.

For some it’s a discombobulating roll-to-a-stop at the Intersection. For others it’s more of a head-on collision with LIFE at the same Intersection.

Whichever outcome we encounter, is largely determined by HOW we lived life up to this point.  We do – for the most part – reap what we sow.  Another of those important guide-posts we ignored on the way to The Human 50-Yard Line.

One can try to hide, but there is no ignoring the reality of The Human 50-Yard Line. It will get your attention, one way or another.

My mother’s favorite saying, attributed to the famous author/humorist, George Bernard Shaw,

“Youth is wasted on the young.”

Every time she said this, and it was often, I wondered what in the world she meant! I always took this pronouncement as an indictment on the empty-headedness of youth. A term I earned the-hearing-of when growing up; though not always necessarily in those exact words. I just figured it was a comment of desperation being made by an older person who was regretting their own loss of youth.

I was wrong.

After tripping over my own Human 50 Yard Line, it became clearer to me. Like a sweet muster of soothing oil, the light went on, and for the first time in my life I understood.

Now, I know what mom meant.

Many of us have said, are saying or will be saying, the line that directly refers to this sense of understanding:

“If I knew then what I know now….”


Though still very physically active and outdoors oriented, I found an odd thing occurring. Unexpectedly, in moments of clarity, my take on life events, changed. New perspectives, I’d never noticed in such reactive manner before, began popping up.

I am a former avid and very aggressive MTB rider. I’ve had many spills in my riding career leading to injuries. I can remember the pain of getting up and continuing on with the ride. Only later finding, abrasions, cuts, breaks and dislocations. But, I was young, dumb and all guts, no brains and gung-ho for the glory of the ride. I didn’t think about the pain. Let alone the results of such body bludgeoning … down the road-of-life.

However, while watching a downhill mountain bike racer involved in an accident referred to, in mountain bike lingo, as an, endo; short for end-over-end. I suddenly – and for the first time in my life – found it very PAINFUL just to WATCH! It was if all of my collective memories were brought to an immediate realization: “OH! That’s gonna hurt!” Digging into my inner memory bank, suddenly releasing, for a full-on, virtual pain-filled-experience!

I had never experienced this level of awareness before.

I remember the pain, but there never seemed to be that nagging ‘memory’ residual. The one that would normally keep a sane person from repeating such insane actions.

Then, it was all about, “If you take a tumble and get thrown, get back up; get on the horse; and ride on.” True this was generally good advice when dealing with adversity. However, there was no real thought; at least in the shallow-end of that advice; for picking a ‘better horse’ the next go ’round. Or, learning to become a better rider, in order to avoid getting bucked off.

Now, I began looking at this same actions and wonder out loud: “What on earth was I thinking? I could have gotten hurt, really bad! Even killed.”

It was then, while watching the pain-filled falls, I finally heard the tiny voice.

The one, when younger we suppressed into the deep recesses of ignorance. The one that we heard, but conveniently ignored. Now I suddenly realized, why the term, recesses-of-ignorance, is used to describe this most unfortunate of choice-paths.

THIS, is what the crossing or collision with The Human 50 Yard Line, brings to a brilliant forefront in life. For the first time, for most of us, these revelations make sense and no longer trigger the – need to be ignored – reaction in our youth.

Oh, so much sense – that it’s now painful to see.

Then another amazing thing happens.

I won’t lie. The learning curve is a bit steep when The Human 50 Yard Line is met. But in a shorter time frame than we’d have though possible, the clarity takes hold and we develop in to the next phase of this new era of life.

Grasping it is one thing. Believing it is still another. Dealing with it… well that’s an on-going-life-lesson … still in play.

Yet, despite our greatest fears of getting old, and becoming afraid of life-in-general, we actually find that we don’t go all over protectionist at this revelation. No, quite uncharacteristically, one finds him or herself, actually feeling energized, if not liberated.

Suddenly, life forces us to slow-down. To look longer and think deeper. To consider our ways. And it’s not at all what we thought – or feared – in youth.  It’s actually pleasant, productive and peaceful.

Gently coming over you, becomes a wash of enlightenment. It’s like an envelope of genuine understanding, that we can actually learn from mistakes. We don’t have to get beat-up-first and then avoid the fist-of-fate.

No! We can take that other turn on the highway of life and avoid that painful crash altogether.  Life can be more about learning and being productive and less about, picking-up-the-pieces.

Amazing! Liberating!

Well! Talk about a “V-8 Moment”!!

There is one sad note here.  It’s not like we didn’t already know this stuff. We heard it; chances are many, many times; but we turned a ‘deaf-ear’ and ignored it. To our own detriment.

Yes, we sure didn’t act like we knew it. Did we?

Which gives even more credence to the saying,

“Never complain about growing old, it is a privilege denied to many.”

For, if we aren’t around to trip over The Human 50-Yard Line, look at what amazing opportunities we’d miss.

Well worth keeping in mind, passing down and reminding the kids about, every now and then.

Whether they pay attention or not, now, the Intersection of LIFE and The Human 50-Yard Line, WILL remind them.