A young buck sporting a velvet rack happily munches on some summer greenery.
This is the time of the when it appears that everyone, and everything is on the move. Cars and bikes are on the highway, while paddlers and boaters are on the water. Hikers have returned to the woods, as drivers and bikers precariously share the roadways.
It is an especially tough time of year to be on the road, as many of the region’s highways are finally getting much needed facelifts following last year’s flood.
It is always a curious balancing act that plays out about the same time every year. Families are celebrating High School graduation as the tourist season hits the ground running with festivals, races, reunions and more.
With the arrival of July 4th, friends and relatives always try to visit, and the summer season is finally hitting on all cylinders.
Although I don’t really need any reminders of the season, I experienced a most pleasant nudge last week that served to rumble up some pleasant memories.
It occurred along a small stream, as I was paddling back home, after a long day spent fishing up-river. I had paddled as far upstream as possible, and in my enthusiasm to continue casting to the readily rising trout; I lost track of time.
I had been absorbed in the moment, and in a moment it was dark. It wasn’t a long trip back, paddling with the flow, but with the evening growing increasingly closer, I put down the rod and took up the paddle.
The stream’s banks are lined with a nearly impenetrable tangle of tag alders, and surrounded by a mix of swale grass hummocks and a very muddy and murky bog. It’s not the kind of place to walk out of, easily.
Once I got beyond the tunnel of alders that shrouded the upper sections, the stream opened up a bit. The stars were in the sky, and I could make out the course of the stream ahead, but it was still very dark, and nearly black on the water.
With the paddle, I gingerly reached ahead trying to stay in the middle of the stream. Without being able to focus on a point of reference, I was off kilter, and off balance.
But then, almost as if someone had flicked a switch, the lights came on. Slowly at first, but with increasing frequency, as I made my way further downstream, and out of the alders and into the grassy banks.
The stream banks were illuminated with the steady blinking of lightning bugs, on both sides. In the muggy dusk, after a long day on the water, the lights appeared as if someone had strung a string of lights through the grass.
The scene stirred childhood memories of family trips to visit my Grandparent’s in Poughkeepsie, where lightning bugs always seemed to be out in force on the hot, muggy evenings along the Hudson River valley. Whenever we would visit, one of our Uncles would send us out to collect them in a big, glass jar.
And he always paid us a handsome price too, ranging he claimed, on the going rate. He would take as many bugs as we could supply, he once explained, because he later resold them to General Electric.
Even though he was our favorite Uncle, as kids, we were convinced he was getting rich on our hard work. “I’ll bet he gets paid a dollar for each one”, my older brother once complained. “Let’s just go back inside.”
Fortunately, I never paid much attention to him; I just kept on chasing fireflies. I have come to realize that in a way… I’m still chasing them, even if the focus of my quest is no longer fireflies.
I continue my search with the enthusiasm of a child, for that is after all, the purpose of outdoor recreation.
It provides us with a renewal of spirit, and the pleasures of redoing and renewing the enjoyable moments of our past. We may see it in the starry night sky, or hear it in a cricket’s chirp, feel it in the wind on a breezy Adirondack mountaintop, or taste it as a fresh picked raspberry.
If you can no longer find it, taste it or smell it, it may be time to quit searching. If you stop the chase and just sit still for a while; it will find you. Happiness is a feeling, and like a dog chasing its tail, good feelings are difficult to catch. But, like a tail, if you stop chasing it it will still follow you wherever you go.
Its summer, a season that was once considered the most fleeting of them all. Take the time to ride a bike, climb a tree, jump in the lake or take a hike on a forest trail. Summer is more about a sense of place, than a sense of season.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.