This year’s first tale from the Inchbeg Fishing School
by Hannah Hamilton.
Violet clouds are rolling in from the south, quietening the birds and threatening the first proper April shower, but the sun isn’t ready to leave its clear blue stage just yet.
Summer is coming. I can feel it on my face as I lie on my back in the meadow surrounded by dandelions in full golden bloom. The river, low and clear, gurgles beside me and I can hear the lilt of the water as it tumbles over the big rock that dad put there to give the salmon somewhere to hide in the daytime (because they don’t have any eyelids). From this horizontal aspect, the pale green buds peeping out of the willow branches look like those strange bacterial colonies we were studying in science class a few weeks ago. Which makes me think of the exams looming on the horizon, just like those violet clouds, and I make a conscious decision to lose myself in my book instead. Yesterday was the last day of college and I’m celebrating the fact with a day of pure relaxation. (Last night, I’d celebrated with pure cocktails, so relaxation is about all I’m good for right now.)
“The pattern of withdrawal and return is basic to all creativity,” says Huston Smith. He’s talking about the life of the Buddha. I don’t have a pencil to underline it with, so I shove a blade of grass into the page instead. Creativity is something I’ve had to snatch and gobble this past while. Little poems here, a rough cartoon there, a paragraph that’s kinda pretty in the corner of a notebook, thoughts for future exploration slapped down naked without pronouns or articles. I’ve been focusing on other things. These last nine months have been a tumbleweed of organic chemistry, Harvard Referencing, development theory, dissolved oxygen, permaculture, molarity, forest management, statistics, the innards of wastewater treatment plants, and… ooops, I’m revising. There hasn’t been much time to play. But, once these exams are out of the way, I’m going to bloom. In metaphors and adjectives. I’m going to forget all about grammar and burst out in technicolour words you can touch. Just like Dean Moriarty said in On The Road.
But now, relax. Calm. Quiet. Let someone else do the talking. Nature. Withdrawal and return. That pattern. It’s basic to all creativity. It makes sense. Summer and I return to the River Field together. This will be our third year. We’re a good team.
I hear a low rumble, undercutting the birdsong, then catch a flash of blond and red. Tearing out from the path between the trees is mum at full throttle on the ride on mower, hair flying in the wind, formula one face clamping her jaw shut, spewing out fresh green fairy dust behind her as she mows towards me, viciously tearing the heads off the dandies. I grab my blanket and tumble-roll out of the way and she turns and grins at me, singing ‘ner ner ner ner nerrrr’ on the wind, slamming the brakes on to take the corner and disappearing back into the forest.
It can be hard to relax in a meadow beside the river, especially with a mother that continually reminds you by nothing but example of all the Things To Do. God, the fishing school! I have five bookings! That’ll cover the insurance. I have to sort out the reels. And make sure I have enough cast line. Oh, I need to speak to the Lady Fly Tiers – the women’s group in Kenya that the missionaries taught to tie flies – and get my order shipped out. I hope they got the Black Gnats right. The last ones were too big. I need to do some promotion. And I need a man with a chainsaw, and Pat the Poacher, to trap the mink. The willow maze, it needs to be trimmed, and I’ve got to re-weave the cloud-gazing dome and finish the roundhouse – the daub needs doing – and how on earth am I going to find someone to teach me to make a coracle? But look!
A tiny iridescent green bug has landed on the page. He’s so small. I start to wonder if I ever was one. I suppose at least one atom of me probably was, at some stage. And just like that, we’re back to organic chemistry. I fold my book shut, gather up my blanket, and walk along the bank to pick up my shoes. The river’s winking at me in the sunlight. Mum’s at the gate. Soon it’ll be tomorrow, I’ll be unhungover, and ready to get creative: first with saws and string and pitchforks, then with thoughts and words. Summer’s returning to the river field. She and I are in time on that one.