Home is a very multifarious word. In one way, it can simply mean the place where you sleep. In other, more complex terms, it has to do with a place to go for deep love and comfort. It is the type of place where you can take a deep breath and relax without thinking about anything in particular at all. Home is the place to reset and retrieve what you lost while you were away. Maybe it is the smell of fresh baked bread and cookies, or the “fresh baked bread and cookies” scented candle you lit before you left. When you do return home, those cookies are there, waiting. No matter how you look at the word, it usually suggests a sense of well-being and calm. At least, this is the way I am suggesting for the purpose of this post.
Vacation was coming. I was about to have five days to spend with family in a familiar locale. At work, my mind drifted off into the past adventures that my family took to New Mexico before we finally moved there in the summer of 1993. Those were long road trips that my brother and I somehow managed to not be killed by my parents for being outright annoying. Although, we were left alone in the desert on a dirt road somewhere in between Thoreau and Farmington. As my brother and I began contemplating survival in the Bisti, my parents hit the brakes and let us back into that red S-10. When I think about it, my brother and I almost had the survival thing figured out and we had only been there for ten seconds at the most. We didn’t know at the time, but almost twenty five-years later, we would be in the same place with a different directive. Fish.
Christmas traditions have only changed slightly in the Goodrich household over the years. My mother still bugs me to take a shower before opening presents, my brother still giddy at the sight of a well-lit Christmas Tree, my father floating around plotting nefarious Christmas antics and somehow hiding the largest gifts. In fact, only a few things have changed. The tree isn’t real anymore and the stockings are no longer filled to the brim with matchbox cars and candy (which I am surprised that my mother has not replaced with bananas and apples). The biggest change has been the characters. People have come and gone (mostly women [mostly mine]), but one new addition is due to stick around. She is my brother’s soon to be wife. I’m not sure about the official status, but she calls me “brother-in-law”. While smiles were created from tearing paper and the joy of being around family, I told my brother that I wanted to take him fishing. Without skipping a beat, Evangeline said, “Yes!”
I have never stood in a river with my brother. Our time is usually spent throwing leeches at smallmouth in the summer or fishing from the banks of lakes in search of carp. He can fly fish, and he does, it just isn’t his preference. Since his fiance has been wanting him to teach her how to fly fish and all the lakes were beginning to freeze over, I finally had the upper hand. I saw excitement in their eyes as they commenced floating around the fly shop while I purchased some last minute items and waders for them. An excitement that would bleed into the next day.
We were hoping to arrive at the river early, a departure time of 6am was set. In all actuality, when my brother and I set plans they are loose. We both knew that we didn’t want to be up there in the cold for too terribly long and we both know New Mexico mornings. Outside the apartment, the car warmed up for a solid hour before we actually left on the long, boring stretch of road between Thoreau and Farmington. It began to snow as we told stories of past fishing trips and built up the day of fishing to come. Evangeline loves stories, and most of the trip was about telling them. Nate (brother) goading me the whole way. If there was ever a moment of silence, he would say, “Hey Dave, tell her about that one time…”
After getting some cigars for Evangeline, it was time to fish. My brother and I expected the worst. Sometimes the San Juan is cruel. Not that the fishing is ever really bad, but between the temperamental weather in the winter and the biting insects in the summer, it makes fishing a bit difficult. Today, the high was 29 with a slight wind. It was something my brother and I are used to, but today we had a first timer with us. There is nothing worse than getting skunked in the cold with 2 people so drawn to fishing that they will stop at nothing to continue fishing throughout the day. After rigging both of the up with the “Hail Mary” and teaching Evangeline to cast, it was only a matter of minutes before they were catching fish.
The snow began to fall as well as the peace that comes with it. That muffled tone made everything more silent, more alive. The water seemed to thicken with the chill. Our lines sliced flakes as they soared through the air, we continued on despite the cold, driven by fish and a mysterious addiction. There is a new fly fisherman in the making now. It is a long, long road of fulfillment. One that, before she met my brother, she swore that she would never.
After my vacation was over, I drove back to Colorado. I thought about that day on the river and the joy it brought. I thought about how the river makes me feel wanted and comfortable. Although my family has their home, that home is my home away from home. It may seem odd for me to say this, but a tree along a riverbank makes a good place to hang your hat. The river is my home, no matter where it runs. The next day at work, I found myself clicking my heels together chanting. “There’s no place like home.”