Wednesday, October 14, 2009

People Should Read More...#4

From Norman Maclean's wonderful book A River Runs Through It (also a great movie, by the way). The book is the story of Norman's family, growing up in rural Montana in the early 1900's. The interactions of Norman, his brother and his father (a Scottish preacher) are set against the backdrop of fly fishing in Montana's rivers and streams.

I was reminded of the beauty of this novella when I went out at lunchtime to quickly browse a used book store near work. I was lucky to find a nice hardback copy of the 1989 woodcut edition of the book, which can now replace the paperback on my shelf (I am a sucker for hardbacks, especially of books I really like, and have no problem with buying another copy of a book I already have, as was the case here - and the fact that it was $3 didn't hurt...).

The opening:

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

The final passages:

Now nearly all those that I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.

Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn't. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.

It still gives me a chill every time I read this.

1 comment:

  1. Chills here too. Love that book, and the passages you quote. The other stories in the book are fantastic too. (Fishing it out of my bookcase and putting in the "to read" pile.)