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Happy Place

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Does everyone have a “happy Place?” A place in one’s mind where one can displace their present location, escape their present circumstances, totally ignore current events around them, and smile with a sense of warmth and assurance wherever this place might be? And be happy while you are thinking about it?

What ignites one to get to their happy place? Is it sitting on the porch reminiscing with friends over a beverage? In a cubicle at work trying to destress from office commotion. Or the ubiquitous conference call, or should we refer to it now as a Zoom call, where you mute the microphone and turn off the camera? Then you sit there and stare at unseen words wishing you were someplace else? You hear your name mentioned and embarrassingly ask to have the question repeated when the conversation was only referring to you and not asking you anything.

Can you find that happy place taking your wife to Talbots and sitting in the “King” chair in the middle of the show room telling everyone how nice they look in those fashionable clothes as they parade throughout the store grabbing more handfuls of apparel to take back to the dressing room? Or better yet, take a trip to the happy place while committed to watching Lifetime movies on a Sunday night instead of Northwoods Law.

How does one define their happy place? Does it hinge with a hint of frustration? Thinking about the large buck I saw last season while climbing a tree stand? The rifle was tied to a rope and laying on the ground unloaded as he walked by just a few yards away from where I knew he would. Or the turkey that gobbles at me for 2 hours only to finally attract 5 females within hearing distance? His harem was in order, and he didn’t need some stubborn, yelping hen that couldn’t take orders and come to him. He took the easy ones and walked on off to breed.

Why didn’t I strip the hook on that redfish instead of merely lifting the rod up like I have done for 45 years on trout? I knew better and had gone over and over that hook setting response in my head on the 3-hour ride to Charleston. To make matters worse, it was a nice fish and the video in my mind of it swimming off will never leave me. Not including the tongue thrashing I received from my buddy poling the flats boat skimming silently across the salt marsh.

The deal with the happy place is that one never gets tired there or feels any pain. The river is always at the perfect height and the fish are always rising. I have only one fly and the fish take it readily. The bass are in the same prespawn, hungry mood as the last time you visited. The lake is clear, and the fish are on the same point as last year.

There were no beads of sweat on the long predawn walk to the deer stand. The little chickadees and sparrows had not awakened yet to startle or flutter to give away my location as I approached my destination. The moon was full, and I didn’t need a flashlight. My steps were silent along the path, careful not to warn Big Hoof I was nearby.

There were incessant flocks of ducks circling and would cup their wings on point and aim to a hole in my decoys with just a few feeding chuckles. No hail calls or pleading, just willing mallards coming in to meet new friends.

It doesn’t matter how severe the weather is; it is totally irrelevant in my happy place. The rice fields here in Arkansas are half frozen over and the ice line is growing. The temperature is in the single digits but I am warm. I can still feel all my fingers and don’t even think about the handwarmers I brought. Gloves were sufficient. Moisture from my nose has frozen my mustache and the hairs are stiff. They may turn brittle and fall out but I don’t care. They’ll grow back. The sunrise brings with it a vision of ducks from east to west and north to south. It’s not cold because I am happy.

The mountain river is edged with ice diamonds bordering the shoals. January on the river. The mist and splashes where water bounced off rocks has frozen where it hit. These iced diamonds twinkle with sunlight giving the river an expensive look. My waders freeze when not submerged and the ice in my rod guides make it tough to cast. But standing here looking downstream at the river bordered by mountain tops in winter makes me happy. I am not cold.

Spring dogwood blooms signal the March Brown Hatch has begun on the Chattooga. In my mind I purposely drive by several pastures to make sure the cows are feeding. Dogwoods are blooming in the background and cattle feeding signals feeding fish so I turn off the next interstate exit and head north. Maybe no one will call as phone service is suspect. I don’t really care as I am headed to my happy place.

Despite all the happy places we think about there is still that one special place that not only brings a smile but makes my heart warm and will last several lifetimes. Mine is sharing the outdoors with my grandson, Rivers. Watching him experience all that we take for granted for the first time. Looking at the world in a forgotten perspective makes me young again. Everything old to me is new to him.

“Lets tie fishes Papa!” he says with a sense of an innocent, learning voice. All the fly-tying materials, paints and tools intrigue him. “Cut the hook off Papa so we don’t hurt the fish,” he says. “I don’t use hooks either son, they just love my fishes so much they swallow them whole, and I release them,” I reply.

His first fish was a catfish. As I hold him back on the dock, I can feel his excitement as he grits his teeth and grinds the reel gears with all his strength until the fish finally yields.

The beach is a sandy wonderland as I run after him down the beach as he is screaming, waving his hands, and chasing seagulls and sandpipers. And then the boat ride. He must drive. Every toggle switch is flipped on, and he throws the throttle forward as the bow rises and he squeezes my arm and laughs.

But there is always a reality check when we visit our happy place. The phone does ring, another business call. I pull the truck over to the side of the road and check emails. My happy place has disappeared. Instantaneously gone. Temporarily catalogued and filed away in the Dewey Decimal System of my mind. I’ll be back one day soon and hope to go find more happy places to file away.

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