Periodicity and Complexity


I try to get in at least a week on Driftless Area trout streams at the end of each academic year.  Just pack up the car, the gear and go.  It's as good a way as any to slough off a year's worth of  teaching, faculty politics and end-of-the-semester grade grubbing.  If you leave on a Sunday or Monday night, you can even find some solitude on the streams (go on a weekend and there's a few too many bait fishermen slugging down cans of shitty beer).

My May trip has even become something of a ritual. All winter I tie flies and itch to get out there.  I wait for the semester to creep to an end, sit through interminable faculty meetings and a bad graduation speech, and then... at last... the first fly-cast.  I was on a small catch and release stream called Ensign Hollow last week. Along a run there was an undercut bank that just whispered trout.  Slung an English pheasant tail into a seam along that bank and the rod tip instantly bent with the weight of a slender little 9" brown.  First fish of the trip.

I was also happy to get off the schneid on Spring Branch, which is perhaps the most technical trout stream in the state: lots of difficult casting and really smart fish that see more flies in a month than I could tie in a year. But I drifted a size 18 cress bug past a rising brown who must have liked what he saw.

* * * *
In nature there is the concept of periodicity.  Events take place with daily or seasonal regularity: winter/spring, dawn/dusk, sprouting/withering.  Even so, variables like temperature, rain, cloud cover and length of day create enough complexity that you really can't crack the code.  There's just enough periodicity to make smart guesses about fish behavior, but even the best fly fisherman will admit that a lot of it remains a mystery. You won't ever fully map the complexity and probably wouldn't like it if you did.

Not to get too zen about it, but there's a certain periodicity to teaching as well.  We break everything up into courses, class times, semesters, trimesters, academic years.  And there are some generalizations you can make about how students (and colleagues) will behave at various moments along the way, but you never really figure it out.  I'm a hell of a lot better teacher than I was 15 years ago, but I still get skunked from time to time.  There are far too many variables.

On this theme, a poet I admire has something to offer:

Heraclitus on Rivers

Nobody steps into the same river twice.
The same river is never the same
Because that is the nature of water.
Similarly your changing metabolism
Means that you are no longer you.
The cells die, and the precise
Configuration of the heavenly bodies
When she told you she loved you
Will not come again in this lifetime.

You will tell me that you have executed
A monument more lasting than bronze;
But even the bronze is perishable.
Your best poem, you know the one I mean,
The very language in which the poem
Was written, and the idea of language,
All these things will pass away in time.

Derek Mahan, Collected Poems.




Comments

T.J. Brayshaw said…
Glad you got to fish. It looks like a really nice area.

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