On the canyon wall, midway between the rim and the river, there is a jutting ledge with a great view. I like to stop there on the descent, rest my creaking knees, and see what’s to be seen in the cold blue channels below. On arrival my eyes drop immediately to the river to scan and probe and flit from one likely piece of water to the next. They usually come up empty. But if I wait a few moments, slow my breathing and soften my gaze, the clues filter in – a flash of silver beside the far bank, flickers of white behind a midstream boulder, a purposeful shadow strafing the big eddy.
I make it a short stop. My companions often don’t even realize that I’ve lagged behind. Yet that brief spell on the ledge may well be, moment for moment, the most valuable time I spend at the river. Sure it provides useful information, like where the fish are holding, how they’re feeding, maybe even some indication of what they’re eating. But like the dots of a pointillist painting, those are just the fine points of a landscape, simultaneously indispensable and meaningless. I’ll be lost again in the minutiae soon enough, so I stop first at the ledge for a moment with the big picture.
From the ledge it’s easier to see that the trout are hunting, making a living and playing for keeps. Their day isn’t about diversion or distraction. This day, like every other in the river, is about filling their bellies and staying out of someone else’s.
It reminds me that, however clouded by the full pantry back home and my habit of release, at heart, I’m here for the same reasons.
And it helps me realize that the important stuff eludes direct inspection, that at best I’ll glimpse it from the corner of my eye, and that such glimpses are not to be taken lightly.
If I can get that straight before I reach the water, the day is destined to be a success.
So I stop for the view every time.