Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Resolved

Resolutions in January are dumb.

I really can’t get into making any sort of rule for myself when there’s only seven hours of daylight and simply getting the newspaper feels like an expedition across the arctic tundra. Leniency. Naps. Snacks. S

weat pants. These are things I can get on board with in January.

But after what felt like a lifetime of clinging to a woodstove, the red-winged blackbirds arrived last week. Then the sand hill cranes. The snow began to melt and the creek began to rise. So too did the motivation to rediscover the world outside four walls.

Walking out to the bus, I asked my six-year-old where the winter went.

“What did we even do this winter?”

She was teetering precariously on an ice shelf that tipped into a puddle of unknown depth.

“Eh. I don’t know,” she said

“Nothing?” I asked. “I guess I don’t remember much either.”

Winter amnesia had gripped us all. The ice gave way and she slid down into the muddy water with her newly aquired puddle jumper boots – a title she took literally. The sun was just beginning to trim the high mountain peaks in yellow before spilling down the valley. Across the street, cranes bleated as they milled about with mama cows and their new born calves.

“Well,” I said, “Let’s make some resolutions for this summer then. What should we do?”

A smile came across her face.

“Mud pit,” she said eyes narrowing as if she were pulling mental images from a file in the back of her brain.

Not far from the house was a water ditch with a spot just wide enough and just shallow enough to make a thick, gooey mud – a perfect paste for covering one’s entire body before stomping back into a clean house. Not that that ever happened…

I asked her if she thought her friend might like to come play in the mud.

“Nah, she’s says she’s a city girl, so she doesn’t like mud or animals or stuff anymore.”

Indeed. I remembered spying the girl in a pair of slightly large, square bottomed heels, fire-engine red, perhaps repurposed from a Wizard of Oz costume. As she shlop-shlooped her way to her locker she flashed a toothless and insanely cute smile.

“She’s a city girl now?” I said. “I didn’t know.”

“Yep. Not a good candidate for the mud pit.”

“Are you a city girl now?” I asked.

“No!”

She looked irritated.

“Well, some other things then,” I continued. “What about fishing?”

During the early parts of the winter we would sneak out to the bridge that spanned a small creek in the backyard. Peeking over the edge we could see trout dart from the big root wad of a willow that overhung the water. With any luck, they’d be back, running up from the lake to spawn.

“Yeah!” she said.

“Camping?”

“Yes!”

“Hiking?”

“Yes!”

“Horse back riding?”

“Yes!”

For a moment, anything seemed possible.

“Cleaning your room?”

The smile left her face. She gave me a six-going-on-sixteen look. The bus came and I was left staring at the cows and the cranes, smelling the thaw of soil and last night’s rain in the air.

Every winter it feels as though spring will never come. And every spring it feels like there’s no limit to what we can do if we just resolve to try. And this summer, I’m resolving to play outside.

Shauna Stephenson is Trout Unlimited’s national communications director. She lives and works near Bozeman, Mont.

By Shauna Stephenson.