"I know no good way
to live and I can't
stop getting lost in my
thoughts, my ancient forests...
You ask - how does a man rise or fall in this life?
The fisherman's song flows deep under the river."
- Wang Wei
I work my way downstream
stripping a black woolly bugger
through riffles and pools.
Leaves release from their
branches. Water swirls cold.
Clouds pile onto each other.
Trout chase flash through pebble
and sand. Sediment settles
in the first low water of the season.
I have nowhere to be
except to make pizza for dinner
in a few hours.
"Ask me how it is I've come to perch in these
and I'll smile with no answer; I'm happiest with
heart-and-mind just so, may be...
Peach blossoms float by here, gone into the
quite definite shadows.
There is another world, other than this one we
choose to live in."
- Li Po
I have a new poem, "Dead Bodies of the Susquehanna," in the latest issue of The Wayfarer. You can order your copy here - The Wayfarer, Autumn/Winter 2018
Thanks for reading!
Here's the tell - I still get swarmed by mosquitoes when I sit out on my porch at night. It's September.
It's been raining since the end of July. There have only been a few days without rain, even fewer with dry air. It feels as if this area is slowly turning into a tropical floodplain. The Susquehanna has stayed high all summer. No zostera. No hyacinths. Only a handful of bass brought to hand. Wading has been difficult, so I've been floating it with the kayak. Each time there are different eddies and currents. The river changes with every flood. It's bulging. The canopy and water are growing closer.
The one upside to all this rain is that, once the sediment settles, the trout streams around here are fishing well. There's a spring creek a few minutes from my house that normally runs pretty low by this time of year. Developments keep being built and the water table gets sucked dry. I fished it for a few hours this evening and was pleasantly surprised at how high the water was. The recent floods have pushed a ton of sediment downstream, leaving some nice, long deep channels. The water was that perfect chalky limestone color. The trout chased the woolly bugger with abandon.
There's a stretch I love to fish that is lined with quite a few old Osage Orange trees. They aren't too common around this area, especially this size. Their bark is unique - strained, thick, topographic, deep grooves that wind their way up and down the tree. Their canopies are large and filter the light in this shallow ravine. They seemed to survive the last few floods. Still standing. Whereas some gigantic sycamore have fallen. They line the banks and as the dirt is dragged downstream, their cedar red roots create great notches to stand in to cast. These, along with the catalpa that line the river by my house, are my favorite stretches of trees in the county. In the fall when I walk this stretch I'll find dozens of their burled lime-green hedge apples.
The opening of the Vegas House of Blues, 1999.
Two couplets anchor this show.
The opening "Gotta Serve Somebody" into "Million Miles"
and "Friend of the Devil" into "Can't Wait"
This was back when Dylan opened every show with Serve Somebody. Started electric, followed by a set of acoustic, then back to electric for the encore. Bono, he comes out for "Knockin on Heavens Door" and it's not the lyrics of his added verse but the guitars playing behind him that make the song standout. This band knew how to play off each other.
Bucky Baxter slides out an incredible peddle steel solo in "Friend of the Devil" and Dylan knows exactly how to draw out "babe." He drags right through every note - cigar smoke and foggy glass. That song was written for him to sing. Like a duet with Jerry, Dylan and the pedal steel carry this song into the second electric set. "Can't Wait," a slow tumble between Larry and Bob that Bucky sways back into the track with his pedal.
For me, it always comes back to "Million Miles" and Tony's bass line. It's a highlight off of Time Out of Mind - an incredibly deep blues riff that carries the whole record. The blues they hone in on during the opening two numbers threads the entire set together.
Some want Dylan to be "political" again. To voice something that they think needs to be voiced about the world. An artist does not voice what people want. Want a protest song? Go back and listen to "Gotta Serve Somebody" from August 6th in Singapore. He's been playing it again, with different stanzas. Want a message? Go listen to it and what he sings about Vegas nearly ten years after this show in Sin City. That's the message, that we're too afraid to ask for, we need to hear.
I stumbled upon the name "Raftman's Path" walking the river trail that traverses through the little town I live in. It was named during the days when lumber was a huge commodity in this area. The Susquehanna River was an industrial thoroughfare - bearing down loads of lumber from the northern reaches of Pennsylvania towards the Chesapeake. Marietta was a stopping point, a place for the lumber either to go to the mills lining its banks or shoot further downstream through pig iron smoke. Raftmen would guide the lumber down to the mouth of the Susquehanna into the Chesapeake - an estuary of salt, water, lumber, ore, eel and shad. When their job was done, they would walk the raftman's path back through the Susquehanna Riverlands of Lancaster County towards their homes. The path is now wooded and meanders through some of the only "wild" places left in the county.