In the summer of 1972, against a background of riots, protests and the Vietnam War, three brothers, raised apart without a father, take a journey by car from Vermont to Alaska and back. Buck, the eldest and recently graduated from college, seeks a reunion with his brothers and clues about who he is and what direction he should pursue. Tim, in the middle, is looking for adventure, however risky. The youngest, Ben, is along for the company of the brothers he's missed for years.
What they tell themselves and each other is that they're going for the legendary fishing they've read about since childhood, which is the common thread they've managed to preserve between them. In the background is the hope that the trip will provide them with time together on neutral ground away from their broken home and bring them from estrangement to brotherhood. Their only plan is to get as far as their savings will carry them, leaving enough to return.
But the plan doesn't take into account the obstacles the odyssey has in store: fatigue, weather, law enforcement, each other, the monotony of a 13,000 mile road trip, and, most of all, the consequences of their choices, all of which combine to challenge their goals to explore angling's promised land and establish connections denied by their childhood.
The difference between what they plan to find and what they actually discover produces the awareness derived from hard lessons and the personal growth spawned by trial and epiphany. The journey itself becomes the gift they give each other.
In this collection of essays, the author considers the beauty of the natural world in all its forms through pieces spanning time, geography, stages of life, and states of mind. From swimming a spring-fed pond to climbing a stormy Grand Teton, fly-fishing the mythic land of Yellowstone to cycling a suddenly different lakeside, he explores the lay of the land and its connection with our capacity to experience wonder.
How do the subjective hazards or emotional longings of our internal landscape govern our ability to open ourselves to not just the material or spiritual worlds, but to all the connections within the elements of them? Just how much are we aware of, how much do we "see," even when we think we are fully present in the here and now? Are we even capable of fully knowing the many layers of the worlds we move through? Or are we destined to dwell in vision limited by our reluctance to open ourselves?
In the answers to these questions there is much more than meets both the eye and the "I."
There's something happening here much bigger than ourselves, even glimpses of which can lead, if we let them, to episodes of joyful surprise, serene awe, and the grace of peacefully living in our right place in the world. The path to knowing that place is different for each of us but always begins with understanding that what we do to the earth we do to ourselves, and the learning we acquire during that journey allows us to approach what it truly means to be free.
After a 30-year career teaching English, writing, and outdoor education, Hugh Rogers lives with his wife, Monique, and their cat, Bagheera, in the Northwest Hills of Connecticut.