Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year

When it’s as cold as it’s been, ten degrees either way doesn’t mean much. There were only a few December days that didn’t record below zero temperatures and the New Year is starting out the same. The few days it was a bit warmer I took advantage of the snow and my XC skis, but day after day of bitter cold makes staying indoors pretty easy.

The holidays are over. Those annual couple of months of mostly craziness that I wonder if we’ll ever get used to. I could be unaffected by a lot of it, but even I have to do a little shopping and when I enter a big store filled to capacity with bargain hunters I get a little claustrophobic. Of course I’d prefer to patronize cool little specialty shops and I do when I can, but where I live the choices are limited. It used to be worse; there was a time when I’d feel a little crowded and break into a sweat and even feel a little nausea. When you live a lifestyle of generally avoiding people you’ll even pass the grocery store for a much needed bottle of milk if there are too many cars in the lot. I’ve become much more tolerant of it all, however, I suppose it’s the years under my belt – but I still wish that person behind me in line would keep their damn cart away from me.

The holidays have their moments, though. Little breaks from the hectic when you spent some memorable time with family and friends, or eat something remarkable, or receive a meaningful unexpected gift.  No, I don’t like the crowds, but I cherish my friends.

Still, now that it’s over and the decorations are down, the cookies are gone, it’s a new year and we’re all back to some kind of routine at work, I can’t help but think, “What now?”

I kind of look forward to lazing around the house in this weather. You know how it is, when the weather is decent you feel like you should be outside doing something – at least I do, and staying inside gnaws at my senses and I get a guilty impression that I’m wasting time. Soon enough I’ll have to take the chainsaw and look for next year’s firewood, but for now reading and fly tying are favorite activities and are important in their own rite. It usually takes cold winter evenings to get me to finally give the shotguns and rifles a thorough cleaning before locking them away for the year, and I finished that task last week.

I’ve always liked sporting art and I’ve been known to stand distracted gazing at a wildlife print. I have some favorites of my own, but a couple of months ago I was offered the chance to purchase an original painting of my long gone setter, Birchwood Cully. Cully was not only a winning field trial dog, but he was one heck of a gun dog as well, pointing and retrieving to a standard that I’ve hoped for in the dogs I’ve had since. The account of how the painting came about is a bit complicated, but the artist worked from a photo and though it was not actually offered for sale, when I saw an e-mail copy I contacted her and now it hangs on my wall. And it’s awesome.

Sitting here warm and sipping from my snipe glass, it’s easy to recall the past season with pleasure and gratitude. Floating and fishing new water was a high point and if all goes well I expect to do even more of it this year. Gunning grouse was far better than predicted and it was great to find good numbers of both grouse and woodcock, and while I’ve often quipped that my setter Jack was the kind of bird dog that makes you appreciate fishing, he really stepped up his game this past fall and did a fine job. Molly had her chance with grouse and a few ducks and I’ll long remember shooting December pheasants over her and watching her carry the big birds through the deep snow.

Maybe I didn’t catch that arm-long brown trout, and that big bass evaded me again. I did experience some priceless outdoor times that I hope to see again, and besides, they’re all trophies to me. It’s a good life. Happy New Year!