Kathleen Clary Miller has written 300+ columns and stories for periodicals both local and national, and has authored three books (www.amazon.com/author/millerkathleenclary). She lives in the woods of the Ninemile Valley, thirty miles west of Missoula.
The last of our summer visitors have packed and headed for the hills. My youngest recently gave birth to her first child, a son, and there is joy and emotion beyond measure. As well, I am privy to the stress level in that household, and heart-wrenchingly too far away (they live on the East coast) to offer continual hands-on support. Beyond that, I grieve to live distant from a grandchild.
Every time I glance at the headlines there seems to be more bad news. The country’s climate is one of fear---about Syria, health care, guns, you name it, and that has trickled down so that I, too, feel anxious about things in my own life I cannot even name. I don’t want to travel, pay for gasoline, or spend a penny. To add insult to injury, next month I am scheduled for my colonoscopy.
In the midst of it all, I found myself stranded on a Fish Creek beach, since—the straw that broke the camel’s back—my fly-fishing vest with all its accoutrements and license had gone missing. Mine was the only operable fishing rod at the Miller household; all three of Brad’s 5-weight rods had snapped within three days’ time, so I told him to take mine, go with our son, and I would just observe their success and enjoy the day.
It took me an hour to stop fretting about this problem or that—be it global or personal. Then, at last, the Indian Summer sun eased my joints, I slid down and rested my head against the back of the beach chair, and drank in the soft light like someone who had just crossed a desert. What summer leaves lingering behind, and during lucky years lends to autumn for a few precious days, is in my view, the best combination Mother Nature has to offer. The low light of September blends with the highlights of July. Leaves turn, birches shimmer in the soft afternoon breeze, colors dance in reflection over the cool, clear water.
After awhile, I stood and strolled. I examined rounded stones, crept to the edge of a bank of them to look down into a pool and watch the fish rise and twist around fluttering bugs as they lit on the surface.
Initially I felt frustration—one more annoyance: Why didn’t I have a rod so that I could cast into this bonanza? Impatiently, I glanced downstream, over and over again in hopes of catching either son or husband—just let me make one or two stabs at these lovelies! Then after a time, I stopped looking for them and turned my attention to what could have been my prey but instead was my prayer of thanksgiving.
In the thick of confusion on a wearying planet, here before me was something surprising and simple, a glimmering grace granted freely in this quiet corner of peace, an Indian Summer afternoon on a river bank.