If you haven’t clicked on the link to the Water + Words video, here it is.
A few years ago I became obsessed with tracking down one of my favorite painters, Frances Ashforth. Not that I could afford to buy any of her work, but just to tell her how much I appreciated it. I finally found someone who knew someone and ended up with her e-mail address. Long story short, over time we’ve become friends, and I continue to be inspired by her paintings and prints, which, for the most part, capture the beauty and feelings I have about water.
Last year, I was honored with an invitation to participate in a project Frances was working on called Water + Words. We talked about it for some time, and I eventually sent her a few words about water inspired by her paintings. Now, amazingly, this jam session has become a small part of a folio which makes its debut on March 30th.
If you have a minute, watch a beautiful short film about the project and the process of creating Water + Words HERE. The folio images themselves are on view, along with Frances’ gorgeous paintings and prints, on her website HERE. The page I worked on with her is below. Now we just have to figure out how to get her out to the Pacific Northwest for a show. If you aren’t familiar with her work, I hope you like it as much as I do.
The crowds. Declining wild steelhead runs. Fish Politics… A few years back, I pretty much quit the Olympic Peninsula, for any number of reasons. Since then, I’ve been lucky to spend most of my steelhead time on the Bulkley, the Kispiox, the Skeena and Nass, unnamed BC coastal rivers and other places far and wide. Then there’s the food fishing in Puget Sound, Willapa Bay and the Columbia. Plenty to keep me busy, but I was jonesing to swing flies for wild steelhead, and this year, for the first time in a long time, I felt the pull of the OP.
Fellow fish fanatic Danielle and I headed west shortly after torrential rains had blown out every river in the state. We had to kill time before the rivers were fishable, so we walked into the Lower Elwha Dam Site and felt the power of a full and free river tearing through the canyon. We stood on the new Elwha Delta and watched the river meet the sea. Then we pushed on farther west.
The OP rivers were falling into shape, and we were soon swinging flies through high, dirty, yet fishable water. The skies cleared. Temps dropped. Snow fell. Conditions went from marginal to perfect. Not many fish around–Perhaps the bulk of the run (2-salt fish) perished in The Blob?–but enough to keep it interesting. And so much killer water to swing through! I had forgotten how much I love this place, and it felt great to remember.
Another bonus was time with JD Love, a good friend and the dean of Olympic Peninsula fly fishermen. We had a gorgeous elk-roast dinner with the Loves at their home on the Sol Duc, and a few hours here and there on the water together. JD’s generosity extended beyond local knowledge and dinner–he and his wife also came to the rescue when we found a lost beagle on the lower Hoh and spent the evening tracking down its owner.
As the days passed, I looked with fresh eyes at the natural beauty of our rainforest landscape, watched the crowds of bobber-tossing guided anglers grow as the waters dropped (one day I counted 17 boats in at Morgan’s Crossing on the Hoh…), and yes, even managed to scrape up a few fish on the swung fly.
I think it’s one of those things where you forget the treasure you have in your own backyard, take it for granted, grow frustrated with it. But after some time away, you understand and appreciate what you have, and perhaps love it even more than you did before. I will be back on the OP again. Soon.
She’d been burning oil for a while, and more recently, started leaking some, too. Last spring, towing our little skiff toward the Columbia, she didn’t have enough power to get out of second gear. On flat ground. When I hit Olympia to pick up Sweeney, we had to take his truck to drag the boat the rest of the way to the big river. That’s when I knew it was time.
I wrestled with selling her. She wasn’t worth much, but I could certainly use the cash. On the other hand, I didn’t have much confidence that she’d be reliable for much longer, and the thought of the burning and leaking oil continuing to hit our air and water weighed on me, as did the declining gas mileage. I put her up on Craig’s List, but found myself talking every prospective buyer out of buying. In short, I was a very lousy salesman.
The answer, of course, was to get her off the roads altogether. So a few days ago, after a surprising amount of emotional turmoil, it was time to say goodbye to a good and trusty friend. Apologies for anthropomorphizing here, but we had so many great adventures together, it’s tough not to. We drove to the Skeena, drift boat in tow, half a dozen times. Four trips to Bella Coola. Once up through the Canadian Rockies. Epic times on the Olympic Peninsula, the Deschutes, the Grand Ronde. Long drives through the desert. Fun in the snow. Crawling sideways out of door-deep mud on the Humptulips. Hundreds of daily commutes to the Skykomish. Twice she brought babies home from being born.
In the end, she had 249,000 miles on the dial and was only in the shop once for anything other than scheduled maintenance. Twenty-five years of trustworthy hauling, twenty-three of which were with me.
So yeah, it’s tough not to attribute some humanity to something that’s been such a big part of my life for so long. My hope is that she’s now providing parts for someone else’s old Montero that’s still running strong. And that our new car, a Toyota, lasts just as long.
I put up a post about summer dreams and BOOM! This happens. Classic. We spent a lovely Superbowl Sunday at the Sweeney’s house in Olympia, one eye on the game and the other looking out the window as five inches of white stuff piled up. Of course, I was too busy eating all the delicious food to worry too much, but we drove home in a whiteout blizzard, and the usual hour-and-a-half drive took an hour longer. Then two days of no school here, many hours at the sled hill (where the kids built a jump and learned the meaning of “getting the wind knocked out of you”), dogs running in snow, snowball battles, snow cones, frozen fingers, a roaring woodstove, and the knowledge that no matter how much we dream of summer, it’s still winter. But we had so much fun, I can live with that.