Those words aren’t mine, they were spoken by Hemingway eulogizing a friend, Gene Van Guilder, although many suspect he was talking as much about his future self as his lost friend.
To many, the Fall symbolizes a death of something pure and beautiful like summer, but for outdoorsmen, it’s more. Autumn is motion. While walking our golden retriever in the Fall in Upstate New York, my father always kept an eye skyward for migrating geese, he’d point them out, and perhaps utter a word or two, nothing more than sheer amazement at the pure beauty of it.
I was lucky to meet a fellow striper fisherman while studying at Syracuse University, Curt Dircks, and we began a Fall tradition of fishing Fire Island, where his family has a camp, every October and sometimes even into November. It’s hard to believe it has been ten years since that tradition began, but we haven’t missed an Autumn. I was a triple-major at Syracuse, and working two part-time jobs, so the escape to a remote barrier island was a relief and then some.
The Island doesn’t allow motor vehicles, so every October we pack our gear, the necessary groceries, rods, waders and bucktails and hop the ferry to the thin barrier island south of Long Island. Sometimes I was taking a break from editing the magazine I worked for, sometimes I was up visiting from where I lived in Florida and now I drive from my adopted home of Boston, but there’s always the bass to come back to, there’s always motion.
As I sit on my small deck in my adopted home on the North Shore, I watch those same geese unsettle themselves for a southward journey as the sky’s light seems to become more crisp in the cooler evenings. I can’t help but think of my dad. I talk with my friend, neither of us can believe it’s been a decade, and we plan this year’s attempt to take part in the Fall Run, hammer out some tentative dates, swap pictures from years past, and dream ever so carefully about the fish stirring along the Southern Coast. A fisherman’s dream uttered aloud becomes a curse.
To me, Autumn is motion, and of the most beautiful sort. Often in life it behooves to step back and look at our circumstance with some perspective to better handle it. Move away from the calendar and see it for what it is, and you’ll notice we’re moving toward summer again, we’re moving already.
Often in life there are moments, years even, full of hardship and pain, that simply must be dealt with. “The only way out is through.” But if we have faith that those times will pass and we’ll bask in the comfort of summer’s warmth again, then the winter is only a period to be weathered, not feared.
And so, with some perspective, the Autumn is motion toward summer again, and it’s damn beautiful motion at that. The crisp sharp leaves of light in the morning, the geese overhead, the stripers schooling along the coast and then those days when you’re outside and the air is just perfect, as though it were made to soak your skin in comfort.
Stagnation is the only thing to be feared, and motion, and the form it takes in Autumn, is pure beauty.