Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be,
I am blessed to be able to ramble for a living, literally and figuratively, and to have this forum in which to do so. Accordingly, were life perfect, I would have a quiet insight to offer here, one inspired by the gentle explosion of beauty that is Spring in the Cape Fear. I’d likely offer a nod to my belief that March 15 seems a mite early for our azaleas to be in full pastel riot. I’d almost certainly offer the notion that we ought to collectively look at what we might individually do to mitigate that trend. But since my continued hope is that you look forward to these epistles like a well-crafted bit of brown water on a Friday evening, just enough to take the edge off, but not enough to cause a headache, that would be the most controversial position I would take.
Unfortunately, after ignoring pain for a decade, I’m firmly planted upon what we (former) parachutists refer to as “the fourth point of contact.” My physical rambling is curtailed by a cast on my foot and a surgeon’s orders I not walk on it for at least a month. I’m confident most of us are living lives far too frenetically, so maybe pushing the reset button once every few decades is of value. But it’s making me antsy and sending my mental ramblings more broadly afield than I typically indulge here. I hope you’ll forgive me.
I intended to focus this month’s message on two books.
The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter convinced me of something I’ve long suspected, we are better off when we strip away the layers of padding on our lives and seek opportunities to be uncomfortable. Before I was immobilized, my child evinced the truth of that on a recent trip to Puerto Rico, going from scared and unwilling to look down at the spiny urchins adorning the reef below us to excitedly braving the winter surf, only lifting her facemask and snorkel from the cerulean water to shout, “Fish, Daddy! Look at the fish!”
For a Handful of Feathers by Guy de la Valdene left me marveling at the magic to be found in words that make me feel as I do watching the day’s first rays sieved through longleaf pine and hardwood, all-consuming fire somehow made diaphanous. Having recently hunted over a dog once owned by Count de la Valdene, I was moved to search out first editions of all of his work. Reading Feathers made me think of more than just de la Valdene’s words. I had to consider my own and those of others who go afield, returning with words and photographs as often as game. It left me disquieted; reaching for the sporting writers who died before I was born, thinking, “What of gentility? What of generosity? What of love?”
When I could not arrive at a satisfactory answer to a question from a friend about where to find the current Harrison or McGuane or de la Valdene, to say nothing of Ruark or Hemingway, I decided to apply a principle instilled in my previous career: If you see a problem, supply a solution.
So, I’m looking.
I’m looking for writers to share their souls with you as much as their words. I’m looking for non-traditional voices to share their perspectives on our shared traditions. I’m looking off the beaten path, for the people and places exalting in a world that will survive each of us, and desiring to share passions too outsize to contain.
I hope you’ve noticed the growing ranks of writers here. In reading them, I have confidence you’ve felt some glimmer of what comes when your rod tip twitches or a tarpon arcs, twisting through the air to smash the water as if she’s punishing it; when a covey bursts outward and upward, gifting you a brief membership in their explosive whir and supplanting conscious thought; or when the tom answers back, his vibrato demanding to know where you are and just what your business is in his woods.
Perhaps you could help me. I encourage you to write me at EAL@tombeckbe.com with reading or writing suggestions or any other thoughts you may have.
I want you to feel what we feel when fully engaged and in the moment. To that end, I offer my continued promise to acknowledge the honor of your kind attentions and our collective outdoor heritage.
Russell Worth Parker
Editor at Large, Tom Beckbe