Native or not, these steelhead are ambassadors of wonder that can connect all of us to what persists.
March in northeast Ohio delivered several unexpected gifts: Day after day of pure sunshine, and river monsters that slipped silently into our backyard.
On a cool and clear Saturday, those river monsters dragged me from a self-seeded mental briar patch of angst and distraction. As someone who’s written about nature’s value as refuge in our too-often over-committed and frenetic world, they delivered a bracing reminder to practice what I preach.
The day started with the realization that I had dropped the ball. My wife, Paola, had searched for the perfect cabin for our spring break, leaving me to choose between two (alas, we had a surprising number of variables to fulfill, including a pond for my fishing-obsessed fourth grader, Luca). Her email with the links to my choices sank deep into my inbox, and I never responded. Four days went by and, that Saturday, we called; both were booked earlier that day.
Needless to say, Paola was not happy. I stammered, protested, apologized, and then vowed I’d solve the problem.
I sat down at the dining room table, opened my laptop, and began my quest for redemption. Luca filled the vacuum of parental oversight by playing Roblox, a stealth invader freely available on the Internet that had crept past our imperfect vigilance of “screen time.”
I wallowed in my failure and the pitiful irony of it all: a gorgeous Saturday spent on a computer, trying to atone for my distracted oversight as my son played video games; I searched for a vacation retreat in nature even as sunlight loped through the trees of the small patch of forest behind our house.
My daughter broke the dark spell. She stood in the kitchen, a hat pulled down almost to her eyes, and said, “Daddy, let’s go look for treasure in the creek.” Wren had a knack for finding things buried in the gravel of our backyard: bricks from old houses, a toy tin car from the 1930s. These treasures were slowly shuffling their way down the creek, moving a few feet in a flood, then buried again in gravel, waiting for the next flood’s nudge—or for a budding archaeologist to unearth them.
I sighed, closed my laptop, and joined her.