In order to qualify as “spring” cleaning, we were up against it. The solstice and the last day of school, both signs of summer beginning, were bearing down on us. The kids and I have been working to clean up the house for a couple of months now, but mostly just little sessions between homework, sports, or anything else we could think of to procrastinate. Finally, my mom came up to visit on a mission: Bust out the work and get it done! To say she helped out would be disingenuous. In fact, she led the charge, diving into the hard work of cleaning shower grout, washing windows, organizing cabinets with mind-boggling energy. For three days, the kids and I just tried to keep from being left in the dust by a 70-plus-year-old grandma.
On Sunday, we celebrated with a grand feast of smoked ribs, sweet corn, artichokes and cornbread. That’s the cleaning crew above, about to sit down for a hard-earned meal. Now the house is bright and shiny–at least compared to how it was–and we’re all feeling good about it. Still more to do, but less than there was by several orders of magnitude. Thanks, Mom! Now we just need to stay on it and finish up before her next visit.
Maybe it’s because they’re right in our backyard, or because they’re too small, or simply that they’re overshadowed by the glamour of salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, but there is a thriving population of sea run cutthroat trout along nearly every beach in Puget Sound. And the fishing is fantastic, perhaps the finest urban trout fishery in the country. In the rush to chase fat, tasty king salmon here in the Sound, and on the coast, and down in the Columbia, or swing flies for steelhead in big, rushing rivers, it’s easy to forget about the humble cutthroat.
I’ve often thought, if only they were twice as big, the typical 14-to-15-inch sea run cutt would match the average 28-to-30-inch steelhead. The rare 20-incher would turn into the trophy 40-inch steelhead–both are found with about the same frequency, or lack thereof. If only. Of course, then Puget Sound cutts would be world famous, coveted by fly anglers everywhere.The inevitable hoards would descend.
Last night, after a hectic few weeks of work and travel and an especially long day at the desk, the beauty of our little cutthroat fishery became clearer than ever. Smarty and I jumped in the boat, ran about five minutes, and started chucking flies. It was calm, quiet, gorgeous on the water. And there wasn’t a single other person fishing in any direction. We fished a couple hours, found a few fish–that’s a beauty Smarty landed above–and made it back to the house with plenty of time for the traditional Tuesday dinner. Turns out our cutthroat are exactly the right size.
There is a kind of magic involved when you get up on a surfboard and start to go. A disbelief that the forces of hydraulics, gravity, tide and distant storms mysteriously combine to propel you forward, as if flying. It’s a feeling you want to last forever, and when the wave inevitably peters out or you hit the beach, you want that feeling again and again. Earlier this spring we were fortunate enough to escape the chilly weather here for family time–Thanks, Mom!–in the warmth of one of our favorite places, the island of Kauai. And both kids graduated from boogie boards to standing up for long rides on perfect waves that rolled in behind a rocky point. I was stoked for them to feel the magic. As I’ve found with our fishing together, it was far more fun for me, as their dad, to help and watch them ride than to catch a wave or fish myself. And man, what a lot of fun! I’m pretty sure if we lived on that island instead of our own, surf would take over our lives. And I’d be okay with that. Probably better than okay. But then, I’d miss the cool air and the smell of evergreens and chasing salmon here in the Pacific Northwest, so we’ll just call it a wash and consider ourselves lucky. Very lucky indeed.
This will, perhaps, ring a bell for anyone who lives in a rural area or just relies on a septic system. My weekend went like this: First, it was time to have the septic tank pumped. Called the company and booked a time and date next week. But in order for the pump truck to access the tank, I realized I needed to cut up and clear the old apple tree that fell during a winter storm. But in order to cut up the tree, I needed to get the chainsaws running. And in order to even work on the saws, I needed to go buy two-cycle oil and gas… One thing leads to another, with a nice big slice of aggravation pie on the side.
Long story short. Took a few deep breaths, mixed the gas, fixed the saws, got ’em running and spent the weekend making sawdust. Kind of like that old joke about what happens when you play a country song backward, you know the one: You get sober, your dog returns home and your girl comes back. Or something like that. Anyway, tree’s cleared and pump truck’s coming Tuesday. If there was anyone around, they would’ve heard me say “Hold my beer, now watch this…”
I admit, three hours into a six-hour drive through Friday I-5 traffic, I was no longer thinking about the upcoming volleyball tournament. Crawling through the parking lot that is Portland, I was thinking, it’s a beautiful day, we should be on the water, fishing. Not that I’m a stranger to such thoughts. I’ve had them for all the twice-a-week volleyball practices in a town an hour’s drive away, and during the other tournaments we’ve driven to this season. And for every basketball practice and long weekend of hoops in various places around the state. This is the reason it’s become increasingly difficult to squeeze our usual outdoor activities into the schedule.
But then I think this is what the kids want to do, and they work hard to be good at it. And I consider how much they’ve grown–physically, mentally, emotionally–as part of their teams. At 14 and 11 years old, I understand that my day-to-day time with Skyla and Weston is increasingly short, and if this is what they want to do, I want to do it with them. And when I watch Skyla jump serve, or Weston drive to the hoop, I realize something else: This is really fun.