A day to reflect on your place in the world and the magic of the seasons. Living in Montana we are fortunate to get to experience all four at their best. Spring is full of life, rebirth, rain, hunting morels, and chasing the big hatches. Summer days are, as Norman Maclean would say, are "arctic" in length. Endless, beautiful, full of long hikes, beautiful fish and dry flies. Fall is about golden leaves, hunting season, throwing streamers for big browns, and those fantastically crisp mornings. Winter is snow, skiing, and catching up on everything you should have done when you were fishing the rest of the year!
The winter solstice is always a much anticipated event, the start of the long journey towards spring. In My Story as Told by Water, fly fisherman and author David James Duncan points out how sedentary things, mountains, forests, people, are truly the ones who migrate, travelling along with the equinoctial tilt of our planet. It is in fact the creatures we consider migratory, that actually don't move at all. The following is taken from Duncan's book.
In the fly-fishing classic The Habit of Rivers, Ted Leeson glimpses this journey when he looks up from his home river at departing Canada geese. He writes,
As the recognition of autumn comes suddenly, in a moment, so one day you first hear the geese....Bound for the south, these birds seem to me a strange point of fixity...for in a sense they don't move at all. They take to altitudes to stay in one place, not migrating, but hovering, while the equinoctial tilting of the earth rocks the poles back and forth beneath them. The geese remain, an index of what used to be where, and of what will return again. Their seasonal appearance denotes your passing, not their own.
Duncan writes the next passage after noting the sudden change after the first cold snap of the year. If you live in the Rockies you know the one I'm talking about. The day when fall suddenly gives way to winter, when that stream you were fishing days or weeks before suddenly has the appearance of an immovable solid. It is on these kinds of days that you realize that you are indeed the one migrating.
Returning home from these surroundings, I found that our house, too sat differently upon the land. The log walls were no longer anchored to solid ground: they cut through the axial stream like a ship's prow. I'd step indoors with a sense of climbing aboard, make tea, sit at the window, watch the mountain world plunge, shiplike, through the slow equinoctial flow. Winter solstice became not a date on the calendar but a destination: something to sail toward, then around, the way schooners used to round Capes Horn and Good Hope. When my daughters climbed in my lap, I couldn't contain my wonder.
"We're moving!" I told them. "The house, the mountains, the whole world is sailing. Can you feel it?"
They gazed gravely at the mountains, then nodded with such serenity is seemed they'd always known. And on we glided, deep into winter, out around Cape Solstice, then straight on back toward spring.
Duncan, David James (2001). Tilt. My Story As Told By Water: Confessions, Druidic Rants, Reflections, Bird-Watchings, Fish-Stalkings, Visions, Songs and Prayers Reflecting Light, From Living Rivers, In the Age of the Industrial Dark. (pp. 57-60). New York, NY. Sierra Club Books.