By Nick Simonson
There’s only three episodes in the current season of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Typically, PBS releases five or six installments at a time, and most seasons have at least 10 shows in an entire run. However, right now there’s only three, which for those parents like me looking for some soft-glow, small-screen guidance for their children while upland gear gets prepped, a few fall flies get tied, or summer rods and reels are cleaned and stashed for the off season, doesn’t provide much cover to get those items checked off the list. However, the second episode in the trio (having played about 37 times thus far in my living room, due to the low episode density of the current season), contains an important lesson at its core set to a quick jingle sung by the animated characters: “enjoy the wow that’s happening now.” As Daniel and his friends take part in fun events – getting ice cream, reading a pop-up book and doing a puppet show – they are quick to ask what’s next, and are reminded by the adults around them not to miss the moments in front of them while they look forward to what’s to come.
I am as much a victim as I am the perpetrator of the forward-looking mentality in my life, especially when it comes to the outdoors, and I recognize that duality with which I do battle each year and each season. There’s always something to be planning for, marking on the calendar, or coordinating with friends six weeks or a few months down the road. While I haven’t gotten to the ice fishing portion of the year in my Outlook scheduler, I’ve already blocked off some days in November for firearms deer season. Although now – the heart of September and into October – provides for a lot of wow, and a lot less planning as outdoor opportunities, such as those prepared for in the heat of summer, and those that happen in the spur-of-the-moment seizing of a warm afternoon, come to be.
The autumn-cooled metal of a treestand hung in the planning stages of the hunt back in the humidity of July now provides a perfect perch to enjoy the moments experienced as bow hunting seasons open across the region. Watching nuthatches defy gravity on a tree trunk an arms-length away, racoons rumble in the saplings below, and deer cautiously make their way across a field or a small glen are moments to be savored as the wild world passes by and we remain unnoticed above it all. While waiting for that shooter buck to wander in – sometimes hours, days, months or an entire season down the road – there’s plenty of wow to go around as nature plays out before us.
As upland seasons roll out, the trapshooting on those hot summer evenings and the dummy tossing and wing work with a dog in the lush grass gives way to the time-stopping moments of a four-legged companion on point behind a group of sharptailed grouse or the thunderous rise of a ruffie in the woods and the subsequent explosion of shot and the crashing retrieve made through the downed branches and brush of the forest floor. Not to break with the theme here, but a slight look ahead reminds us that there’s something special about that opening day rooster that seems to pause time altogether as it is rousted from cover and explodes in a cackling blur of black, bronze and blue from the edge of a cattail slough.
On those fall days that don’t feel like fall, however, there are opportunities that require little planning or forethought. A warm spell, like the front half of this week, serves as a summery reminder which while it might also limit field time for hard-charging dogs, invites the quick nabbing of that spinning rod tucked in the corner of the garage, or the assembly of a fly rod with a few flashy streamers, and a run to a favorite local lake. There the fish behave as if it was June or July – aggressive, hungry and hard-fighting – be they walleyes, smallies or rainbow trout moving shallow in the recently-cooled waters. The water this time of year – in fading and infrequent one- and two-day stretches – provides quite a bit of its own wow, and when things get too warm for the field, gives us an option to savor the lingering feel of summer and the sensation of a strike at the end of the line.
The many exciting options available at the intersection of summer and fall require little planning this time of year. Simply grab a shotgun, a box of shells and a faithful dog, or a trusted spinning rod and a small tacklebox loaded with a stash of spoons, jigs and crankbaits and get out there, to enjoy the wow that’s happening now…in our outdoors.