The best of both

I love fireweed, but part of me hates to see it bloom.
The old Alaska saying is when the top of the fireweed blooms, winter is only six weeks away. While that is more true of regions north of Prince of Wales Island, the point is the plants are starting to bloom, and before the upper blossoms explode in vivid pink, I will be gone.
It was sometime after I took the salmon out of my mouth, gutted it along with the others, and drove to Kaleigh’s shop to have them vacuum packed and added to the pile of fish waiting to come back with me to California, that I thought in earnest about another summer that slipped away.
I spent 42 days in a place that people dream about. I fished 41 of those days and caught rainbows, cutthroats, char, pink salmon, coho salmon, king salmon, halibut, red snapper, china rockfish, ling cod, black bass, kelp greenling and quillback. Who wouldn’t then stare out the window into the rain and dread leaving this fishing paradise?
People like my high school shop teacher and cross country coach arrived decades ago and said, “I’m never leaving” and he rarely fishes. I have friends that got off the island, into the states and came back by choice. They saw the world and chose Alaska, just like many chose Manteca.
The people are nice back home, the weather great and the days long, but maybe the best part is the ability to get the tiniest grasp on nature. Just the slightest bit of control over the same wildness that has murderous tendencies during winter. You feel as though if things were different, and nature daily tried to weed out the weak like it used to before running water, anti-septic cream and the Internet, you could make it – if only for two months.
Those entrenched in the modern world might think there is nothing up here, but there is so much of that nothing, it’s suffocating.
You have to think about these sort of things every once in a while. Ponder what the heck you are doing, not by counting likes on Facebook, checks on a bucket-list, or the dreams of a naive and idealistic teenager, but assess why things are going the way they are and how you feel about it.
I left the place I still call home, but I’m okay with it. I’ll miss sitting on the boxing table at Kaleigh’s asking Tucker when he is going to win a state wrestling championship like his brothers and bugging Tess about never smiling. I’ll miss the muffled creak of each step leading upstairs of my childhood home, the low wooden beams and even the caucus of ravens that think everyone should be awake when they are. I’ll miss the fish, the bears, the deer, the sunsets, the smell of the ocean from my deck and my friends. The friends that I don’t get to spend a lot of time with because they all have two or three jobs that require them to do work during the summer months. That’s the key. I have 18-hours of sunlight to do whatever the heck I want. I don’t work when I am home, that’s what makes it perfect. I fish for fun then write about it, or visit their jobs and write about it rather than help. Tough to beat that.
So I like what I have going in Manteca. I’m happy, for now, with essentially living two lives and writing about it in this space and other magazines. Some would hate being a non-married, fish-craving 31-year old without substantial roots but upon deep contemplation, I’m digging it.
Bloom without me fireweed, I’ve got work to do and California trout to catch.

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