On the other side

The heavy rains ceased at the end of May and then the tourists came to town. Every day followed in the same way: wake at 6, turn the kettle on, brush the teeth, press the coffee, pet the pups, drive out of the canyon, through the mesa and straight toward the mountains. Arrive at the shop, turn on the open sign, greet the eager anglers waiting at the door, some experienced, some wide-eyed and some unsure. The guides arrive with coffee in hand, make introductions, discuss plans, look up flows, talk equipment and inspect fly boxes. I fit the clients for waders, fit them for boots, print licenses, ring up hats, ring up t-shirts, listen to fish stories, look at fish pictures, shoot the shit and pour more coffee. Then they are gone, headed to the river, and it’s just the shop in front of me: I clean the desert dust that finds its way into everything, fold t-shirts, pull out maps, pick out flies, give directions and send unsuspecting fishermen into the wilds. Then the phone rings and I book trips, trips and more trips. 11 hours pass, the shop closes, the guides return with dirty boots and wet waders and stories from the day, they all talk about the big one that got away.

The months pass and the days lag: 6 o’clock brings the alarm and I hit snooze, I put extra grounds in the press, the pups don’t wake up to see me off and the drive seems to take just a little bit longer. The shop is picked through, the neon sign flickers, the shop coffee pot is on the fritz, the guides are disheveled and they all have perfect sunglass tans emblazoned around their eyes. Yet the clients keep coming, they are still waiting at the door, just as eager and just as unsure. 

However, this morning when I woke I noticed that the dark of night still clung to the canyon walls surrounding my house. I noticed that the sun rose a little further south on the horizon. I noticed that the air is crisp and carries a faint smell of roasting green chili. When I open the door to the shop I notice it is still and hushed inside. I check the calendar, no trips today. No trips today! I open the front door to find no clients waiting, the phone sits silently on the desk, I am alone among a multitude of fly fishing artifacts. I sit down behind the desk and pause. I realize that I have just passed through the squeeze of the season. Season number one.

Here are 10 things that I have learned:

1. The state of Texas single-handedly keeps us in business.

2. Everything in the realm of the fly-fishing world is a secret and every fisherman lies.

3. Wives always out-fish their husbands.

4. A guide trip is like a bar shift. An 8 hour therapy session followed by a beer.

5. If I am to be successful in this business I must be tenacious, hold fast and believe in myself.

6. It is possible to fall in love with a single moment. I have fallen in love with the moment in my morning commute when I emerge from the depths of the Rio Grande Gorge up into the vast landscape that is Taos. A landscape of mesa and mountains. The grandeur is, at times, unbearable.

7. Taos mountain carries a personality that changes by the day. Some mornings the mountain is clouded, grey and glum, on other mornings it holds the light in delicate, varied lines and stands crisp as if sketched in sharp pencil. Still other mornings it is a single wash of pastel colors, elastic and otherworldly.

8. I have started dreaming of rivers while I sleep, of tributaries, springs, currents, and eddies. 

9. The river is the consummate mother.

10. Saying “yes” to my soul’s desire for this adventure, taking the leap and making the move has restored my practice of faith and changed my life forever.