The Course of Life

I enjoyed a surprise visit yesterday. My cousin Jeff was passing through the Catskills and had called the night before to ask if we might be around and interested in catching up. I was gladdened by his voice and anxious for his arrival on Saturday afternoon.

Back in my more formative years, my family would travel back to the New England my father grew up in. A highlight of those trips were the numerous visits with Jeff and his family. When I attended school in Massachusetts for a year, I spent most weekends at their household and we became closer. Jeff always had an adventurous side that I admired, and we enjoyed a few together. Whenever I would visit, there seemed to be something new in the planning or execution stages.

Perhaps the biggest event we shared was the time I arrived to hear about Jeff’s and his friend Tom’s new interest in sky diving. Their tales got me excited and soon we were driving to the jump center where I would undergo a day of training and make my first jump. It was a singular experience, and one I will never forget. Another time I found them into rock climbing, an adventure I did not partake in. We must all know our limitations, and climbing is high on my own list. Jeff however found it particularly exhilarating, so much so that he and Tommy took it to the stratosphere with an assault upon the fabled Matterhorn!

I remember the time I received a call telling me that Jeff was crewing a sailboat up from the south, and would be docking in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the night. I jumped into my Trans Am and headed to Charm City to meet him. We had a great night hanging around the Inner Harbor area and relaxing on the boat! My cousin seemed to always be enjoying a new adventure.

I missed that close relationship as time passed and we both became enmeshed in the twist and turns of life. Work, family, and distance made our meeting all too infrequent as life matured. When I moved to the Catskills, I got to thinking that I was closer to my old haunts in New England, close enough to get together. Sadly, by the time I got around to doing something about it, I learned that Jeff had moved south, and distance once again came into play.

Having the chance to sit down and catch up on some of what we had missed in each others’ lives was a treat, turning a quiet weekend into something special. We are young no longer, though we were both pleased to hear that our individual adventures continue. I shared the excitement when Jeff spoke of backpacking in the Sierra Nevada’s, and even doing a little fishing for wild mountain trout. He was truly pleased to find me right here where I wanted to be, retired in the Catskills and pursuing my own passion for bright water and the dry fly. He told me that he always appreciated that I had found my passion in the outdoors and had stayed true to it. That sentiment means a lot to me, for I have always admired and respected Jeff’s spirit of adventure and the commitments he made to enjoy life to the fullest.

Walking the mountainside the day before I received that call, I had marveled at the simple beauty of the sunlight playing upon the autumn landscape, and the glimmer of bright water cascading down the tiny rills that merge to form the brook, one of the headwaters of the legendary Beaverkill. I always feel particularly fortunate at such moments, thankful to be there and alive, and to be a part of the wild landscape.

Time catches all of us, but we may persevere and run the race to our best by keeping a sense of adventure, whether climbing a new mountain; or casting a fly to a gentle ring upon the surface of a river.

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