I received a note in the mail from a buddy of mine. The message was handwritten on a neat note card and enclosed in the envelope alongside a short anecdote cut from a magazine. Outwardly, and not surprisingly, you could say the story was about fishing. But fishing stories on their own – and after you’ve read enough of them – can get pretty dry so of course there was far more to it than that. There were elements of nostalgia and melancholy, with flavor of longing for times past and some regret of the way things are shaping up for the future. It’s about a simple and down-to-earth way of life on a river that’s becoming complicated with techno gadgets and high-powered fuel burning machinery that’s hard for folks like me to understand the appeal.
I’m reminded of a time many years ago when I was 16 years old and I thought my dirt bike would be a great way to get into a particular trout stream. I stopped at a bend in the trail when I met an old fisherman and his wife hiking out with their rods in their hands and wicker creels hung from their shoulders. Over the idling engine I asked the old-timer how the stream looked down there. He replied in no uncertain terms that the stream was beautiful and it was a shame I was about to ruin it with that damned noisy dirt bike. Well, even though I was nothing more than a young shithead, I was raised to respect my elders and that old fisherman looked like the kind of man I wouldn’t mind becoming. So I turned the bike around and left. I knew he was right and I learned me a lesson that day that stuck. Since that time I’ve spent many a day trying to get from here to there unnoticed, silently and leaving no sign. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Another thing that struck me about the note was, well, the note itself. I’m old enough to remember when writing on paper was the standard form of correspondence. I used to trade letters with a handful of friends comparing hunting and fishing seasons, sharing life’s joy and troubles, and just keeping in touch through the postal service. We took a bit of pride in the note cards we found and mailed, and you could tuck a prince nymph or grouse feather or photo inside for that something a little extra special. When you wrote something it took some time, and thought. It meant something because it was going to last awhile. Sometimes you’d type them out on a typewriter if you remember what those are. When the computers and printers came out we wasted plenty of paper trying to get the printing on the right side of the card. But we kept at it and it all seemed right. That was the beginning to what we have now, I suppose, but I can’t or don’t keep up with today’s forms of electronic instant communication and if I’m missing out on something, I’m ok with it so far. I’m a simple guy and when I get to wondering if I need an upgrade in communications I recall the words of an old Greg Brown song “I don’t need to read the news, or hear it on the radio. I see it in the faces of everyone I know.” That sort of thing strikes close to me.
A neat friend in town laughs at my old cell phone and wonders if I’ll ever upgrade. Another claims I am unreachable and thus unreached. If I got with the modern world I could shoot messages, twitters and photos and whatever else to them daily, maybe hourly. As it is I might see these folks a couple of times a month. To me, face-to-face is worth the wait.
When I played music with the band I had access to our Facebook page so I know what it is, but I guess I’m a little too private to have a personal site. Anyway, I have that old cell phone, and e-mail and even this blog. Heck, I’m so easy to reach I’m amazed by it.
So I’m encouraged by the note I received. I enjoyed the story that came with it and I didn’t need a battery powered screen to read it. He could have easily e-mailed me the link, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, I know the internet is important and here to stay and will keep evolving (how would I be doing this without it?) but there’s nothing wrong with being a little old fashioned from time to time. Maybe it will become popular to go retro and use the postal service again, you know, what was old is now new? Whaddya think? Use more paper, cut more pulp, make more grouse and deer habitat. Seems reasonable. And if you’re looking for a bargain send an envelope across the country. It will get there in a couple of days for the price of a stamp! Less than the cost of a cup of coffee. That’s a deal.
OK, I’m kinda off topic here, but it’s a deep, dark, cold, cold winter night and it affects us. Stay warm.