Right Under My Nose

August 8, 2011 by  

By Nick Simonson

When you stand the world on its head, or do your best to stand on yours, the perspective of how and what things are gets turned upside down and undoubtedly provides a new view of what were once familiar surroundings.  Last week, as I made the move from the house my wife and I had rented in the middle of town to a new place about a mile away and near the edge of the city, my world and the way I viewed it were inverted.  With the boxes that went back and forth from the rental to our new place, and the blur of a two-day trip to L.A. in the middle of it all, I barely had time to catch my breath and take stock of my world.    But when I did, I began to notice those things, which despite multiple walk-throughs of the property and my time living in the area, I hadn’t seen before.
While mowing lawn for the first time in five years, I buzzed around the trees in the backyard where my yellow lab Gunnar will spend his retirement years policing the squirrels, birds and rabbits that venture too close to the garden, when not on fall hunting duty.  As I did, I identified the various species of trees – elm, silver maple, catalpa and WHAP!
Ducking a bit too late, I rubbed my lip and the side of my face and glanced at my hand.  A deep purple liquid instantly stained my fingers like an ink blotter.  I rubbed my cheek and the purple lightened.  I gingerly stuck my tongue out and tasted the juice, wondering what it could be and how long I might have to live after my taste-test.
The smooth, mellow sweetness of the purple juice was akin to that of a blackberry, but even my limited horticultural knowledge reminded me that blackberries grew on small bushes, not trees.  I glanced up at the branches and saw hundreds of white, red and deep purple berries like beacons in the sun.  A quick Google search on my phone led me to their proper identification as mulberries – along with recipes for syrups, jams, jellies, salsas, and with the recommendation of a friend a few hours later, a smoky-sweet mulberry-chipotle barbecue sauce.  There were thousands of the ripe purple berries, and twice as many unripe white and red ones.  When I finished mowing I set to work on reaping a new and unexpected benefit of being a home owner once again, enjoying the pleasant surprise with a dish of ice cream.
The next morning, while walking Gunnar on the multipurpose trail on the edge of town, which traced the flow of a small diversion channel until it rejoined the river, I saw a man casting into the ripples at the junction.  I had only fished the river far upstream, where trout were stocked each year, never angling in the muddy whirl of farm runoff and city rain water that it became when it ran through town.  As I walked back to the junction where the man was fishing, my curiosity got the best of me.  I veered off the path and introduced myself to the angler, and asked him if he had any luck.
“Right after you walked by the first time, I landed the biggest northern of my life,” he said, flipping his cell phone open and showing me a picture of the fish next to his rod on the muddy shoreline.

He then related that as he attempted to unhook the pike of over 35 inches, it thrashed wildly, breaking his line and quickly finding its way back into the flow which was no wider than spitting distance.  In disbelief, I congratulated him on a nice pike for just about anywhere and asked about the species he had caught.
“I’m just visiting, but my brother catches mostly walleyes and pike here and at the bridge they’re working on upstream, and does the best just after opener,” he related, “but he caught a nine-pound-nine-ounce ‘eye on Thursday night…so that’s why I’m here,” he continued with a chuckle.
Amazed by his fish and his report, and more astounded that I had never wet a line in this portion of the small river, I walked back home with Gunnar, ready to grab my rod and hit the flow in the near future, even if it was just for a warm late summer evening casting after what seemed like improbable fish in the river one could nearly jump across in spots.
Between the two events of finding a bevy of berries in the backyard, and the potential for trophy fish on a tiny trickle just a block away I was reminded of something that only my world being turned upside down and a change in surroundings could provide.  And that is opportunities to learn, enjoy and explore are never very far away and are often right under my nose…in our outdoors.


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