“Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty.” – Annie Dillard
I grew up in the Catholic Church where, by a certain age, I was deemed qualified to choose right from wrong and gently forced to admit the latter. I soon rejected this practice—the dark room, the hidden man, prayers at the end to make up for it all. It felt hollow to me. So I gave up the altar boy gig and slept in on Sunday.
Shortly thereafter, I began flyfishing Conoy Creek. It started as an excuse to get out of the house and smoke Backwoods cigars, but slowly became the place I went to figure things out. I started with the fish: where they were and what they ate. Then branched out: relationships, ambitions, how to get from point A to point B. The process became part of the casting, the wading, and the stream.
I came to realize that we never really figure anything out, but it’s still essential that we find a place to go through the process. Mine just happens to be a creek. I go to spread my whole self out in the water, to immerse myself in a sort of baptism that washes away my sins.
I’m thankful that the water doesn’t take me and fold me up. I wouldn’t be able to ruminate that way. Instead, the creek reflects back what I need to see. It doesn’t just whisper my weaknesses and wrong doings, like the confessional booth did— it shares the good stuff, too. I revel in that space where I get to let the good and the bad, the accomplishments and the regrettable, all slip through my fingers like cold water.
Michael Garrigan teaches high school English and fishes small trout streams in Central Pennsylvania.