On the stream I am able to find that place of quiet and peace. I fall into my self. I am aware of my surroundings and every footstep I take. with return trips I see the water levels in many places dropping. The leaves changing and the air becoming more comfortable with a long sleeve shirt.
I revere these days that I have had this year and the joys I have felt stalking fish on new streams both alone and with friends. The streams are changing with the seasons. So must we. I see the winter coming ahead and I want to prepare a place to find myself content. I want to have places that I can continue to slip into and find serenity even though it may not be on the streams.
To begin the process I have started to play catch up on the work in my back yard. I am struck by the amount of things that autumn reveals that we have sidestepped maintenance. In other words "I let my yard go to hell this year." I spent most of last week cutting down the remains of dried and dead sunflowers. They served a great purpose through the spring and summer, acting as a beautiful cover for the unfinished and untouched back 10' of our yard. The time they saved me in doing anything about that area is now being taken back. This is life. The universe exists in a natural state of chaos. Decay and change are part of the process of life as we observe it. Impermanence is a reality we all must accept and hope that we have the yard tools and energy to do the work to set things "right".
This year feels different than years past. It seems to be moving in a more subtle and observable way. Our maple trees in the front yard have started to turn and a few leaves are dropping now. I can see into the future the large piles that I will rake and bag in just a few weeks. Maybe in years past I have been surprised by the change because it was not a priority.
During the winter I will take refuge as I always do at my fly tying bench and pouring over maps and trail books looking for streams to explore next spring. Those areas that I do this though have also collected clutter and will need to be organized again before I can start that process. My garage had become a catch all and I made a serious dent in organizing it already. For some reason in our house everyone's stuff kind of migrates there.
Not to anthropomorphize too much but I suppose fish go through a process each year too where they find their spaces where they can comfortably survive the winter. Deep pools with some food sources and little need to move about. I am getting ready to let them be in peace as well.
I have observed that creating a place of serenity does take effort. it is that intention and planning that helps us see ourselves in a different place having different things to occupy ourselves with. When we plan we can project ourselves into and create a new way of thinking and doing things for a little while.
The first step is to slow down and recognize our situation for what it is. We are as connected to the seasons as any other living creature. We are affected by weather, foods, seasonal rituals and holidays. Maybe you feel the way I do too and there is a slight anxiety that slowly builds up to winter.
Finding serenity is about giving those areas of chaos in our lives some order and in doing so have a visceral affect on our minds. This reduces our stress and gives us a clear place to fall into for peace in our day to day lives. A place that we can escape to when we need to. I can only suggest that by reducing these areas and spaces we escape to their primary parts and to only those things that are needed we will find our serenity easily.
We all know that moment when time stops on a stream and we are in tune with all that is around us. Our senses are heightened and our minds quiet down. everything is in it's place and there is a flow to it.
The same is true of the things in our lives that we shed. If they can be of use to someone else then they should. I take trips to the thrift store drop off about once a week. Each time with a new box of items that I can say I am done with.
I want to find that same kind of serenity in my home and in my yard. In thinking about how to do this I can only presume that the first step is to stop doing what I have been doing. The next step may be to make things as simple as possible. To have a yard and home that is as low maintenance as possible means having systems in place to keep clutter down and to add some order. It means making a concerted effort to find new attitudes about those spaces and reduce the need to abuse those spaces for frivolous means.
Dennis Vander Houwen lives in Colorado with his patient and supportive wife, talented artist son, a smart older dog, a new river puppy, and a very lucky cat.