Nymph of the Wood
Copyright© 2012 by Lance Manne
It was a beautiful day on the lake. On the hillside, the early morning sun cast long shadows on the grass. A herd of cows were grazing in a nearby field. Several other boats were scattered about on the lake. Their occupants all seemed intent on perfecting their fishing techniques.
I thought I spotted a hawk among the branches of a tall dead tree. I looked a little harder, and sure enough, there he was. The large bird was barely discernible among the black and white mottled branches. The splotches on its chest were designed to blend in perfectly with the surrounding structure. The only thing that had caught my eye was the slight bulge in one of the branches. It had been that slight deviation from the norm that had caught my attention and had allowed me to discover that incredible bird.
I had risen early and arrived just in time to see the sun come up. As I enjoyed my surroundings, I began to experience an overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity. The view I had of the world at that time and in that space was one of amazing beauty. The lush hillside, the amazing variations of colors in the sky, and the clarity of the water all added to the incredible scene that was unveiling before me. I hope that I never reach that point where the wonder of a new morning becomes just another day.
By the time I spotted the hawk, I had already caught several nice fish. I had gently unhooked and carefully placed each fish back into the water. My real purpose for being on the lake was to experience the wonder and beauty of the early morning. Of course, if I caught that one perfect fish, it would later become my meal. I love the natural world and flee to it every chance that I get.
I had recently had a bad experience in my marriage and had decided to attempt to swear off women. Who needs them anyway I had rationalized in my state of hurt and disappointment? In nature, I could spend as much time as I wanted looking at the beautiful scenery around me. Even if the weather should change and the sky became filled with ominous looking clouds, I would still be able to marvel at the movement, shadowing, and power present as nature exhibited its wonders.
With a woman, you are only allowed the time that they ration out for you to look and gaze upon their wonders. More often than not, it's just a brief glimpse and then they go back to covering up what you so much long to see.
My wife was a beauty. She was incredible to look at. She had that knack for picking out clothes that would flatter her body. Her hair was always perfectly cut. The nails of her fingers and toes were always painted and manicured. She always smelled so good. When she was lounging around the house, I would stare in amazement at the lovely figure who shared the house with me.
There was only one problem. It was like living with a porcelain doll. She was amazing to behold, but I could only look. If I stroked her hair, I would mess it up. Her nails were always drying. Her clothes couldn't be wrinkled. She was a living breathing doll, but that was the extent of it.
Her neatness transferred over onto me. I had to wear matching clothes. When I worked in the yard, I had to look like I was going out to play golf. My nails had to be trimmed and cut. Calluses, if I should get any, needed to be soaked and filed, just to make sure I didn't snag or pull any fibers on her clothes.
I tried to survive as long as I could. We would have a nice time when we went out to eat. She could carry on a good conversation and act pleasant in public. She was intelligent and pleasant to be with.
I could see that other guys were checking her out. There was no doubt in my mind that they were envying me. If they only knew, I thought. I looked at their partners who were much plainer and found myself envying them. That feeling of having someone who cared about you and shared in your dreams had become so elusive to me.
I longed to have a partner that I could laugh and play with. I fantasized about a wife that I could chase around the house and finally catch, exploding in an embrace of passion and abandon. I wondered if I would ever experience that feeling of being loved and desired by a woman. I wanted to be enticed and seduced by my lover.
After years of attempting to save the marriage, I finally decided it was time to let go. I was the one who suggested a trial separation. She claimed that she did not want that to happen, but she didn't fight it either.
I moved into half of a duplex that had access to a two car garage. Fortunately I was able to store my boat, kayak, and sailboat and still have room for my Jeep. The first week was like a dream to me. I put on some old jeans and a t-shirt. I went fishing and hiked through the woods. I built up some calluses chopping wood for my campfires.
I discovered that I did miss my wife. At the end of the day, there was no beautiful woman to dream about. There were no smells lingering in the air to remind me that a woman was present. There were no delicate clothes hanging at the end of the bed, laid out to be worn the next day.
One benefit that I noticed right away was the feeling of being so alive. I was no longer walking around like a zombie in a dream. I really looked at the sky. I really looked at the trees. When the sun shone on my face, I could feel the energy being poured into my soul.
I would drive by the house occasionally out of curiosity. Several times she had asked me to stop over and fix something; like the garage door or the sink. Each time I would look on her beauty and be amazed. Secretly I hoped that she would say that she missed me. I dreamed that she might grab me and press her body close to mine. That never happened. She would never come up behind me to gently rub my neck. I would have returned if she had simply hugged me or given some indication that she still loved me. Instead, it was a gentle handshake, being careful not to damage her nails.
One day, as I was driving by, I spotted a Lexus in the driveway. The old juices began to flow and a bit of jealousy kicked in. I parked down the road and waited to see who might come out.
I wasn't there long before I saw my wife come out with a very handsome man. I dug out the binoculars that I keep in the car. I like to have them ready in case I should need to identify a wild creature that I may have spotted along the side of the road. I had to admit, he was very clean. His hair was perfectly cut. His clothes were impeccable. I could tell that his shoes were of very fine quality.
I watched as he opened her door and then went around to his side of the car. After they had left, I lingered for a few minutes more. What was it that I was feeling? My emotions were all over the place. What did I think would happen? What did I really want out of life? Why should I be jealous of this man, knowing that he would soon find out just how unexciting she could be?
I am convinced that there are some men who are emotionally developed the same way as she was. They are more concerned about appearances than what lies hidden in the recesses of the heart. They get more upset about a spot on their clothing, or a smudge on their car, than they do about a longing heart or the need for affection.
I am just the opposite. A spot is a spot. A tender touch is a treasured moment. A look, caress, or a soft kiss is to be treasured for the remainder of the day. The height of passion is like a hillside covered with wildflowers adorned with the finest of trappings. It is to be enjoyed and savored more than just about anything else in life.
I had married for looks. We had agreed to not unite in love until after the wedding. I had thought it was a religious or cultural conviction. I would later learn that it was something that was buried in the very core of her being. Not once had there been a spontaneous outpouring of love and affection. Not once did I feel that she cherished or needed my love.
I started up the car and drove away. The reality of seeing her with another man was just too much. I needed to go someplace where I could burn off some energy. Fortunately, I still had my bike on the car rack from the night before. I headed to a bike trail that led out into the countryside. From previous excursions, I knew I would be able to ride for miles. I needed to work through some thoughts and set my course for the weeks ahead.
In what direction was my life going? Was there any hope of change or the promise of renewed affection? Did I even want to put in the work that was required if that change was possible? What did I really want out of life? Did I really love her or was it just the thought of someone else being with her?
All these and a multitude of other thoughts ran through my head. I tried to concentrate on the scenery around me, but my emotions were just too raw. How could she treat me like this? I had never once been unfaithful to her. I had tried to buy her everything that she wanted. I had sacrificed many of my own dreams in order that she might be happy.
The motion of my legs pumping on the pedals felt so good. The wind was gently blowing across my skin. I was wearing a baggy shirt and a pair of cut off jeans. I knew that, in my present condition, I was not presenting a very desirable sight. Being married and working long hours had made me soft. There were many areas of my body that needed work.
I would never say that I was handsome. At times, I wondered if she had married me for my money and stability. I had a good job at a brokerage firm and had the potential for advancement. I guess those qualities can be very attractive to some women.
As I rode up a long hill, I recalled the pleasure that I had previously discovered while exercising my body. I remembered the feel of a muscle as it strains to push the limit just one more time. I loved the burn that comes from pedaling up that long hill. I recounted the way that my stomach and back worked together when I walked and my body was toned and in shape. I missed that confident stride that comes from having a physique that is developed and doing what it was designed to do.
All my exercising had been lost on my wife. She saw sweat as disgusting. "Don't get near me," she would say. "Go take a shower," was a familiar phrase. I would notice the neighbor ladies gazing at my glistening chest as I dug in the garden or moved heavy objects around the yard. I would flex just a little more, accepting the little interest that had been directed my way. I would glance at the window to see if my wife was looking, but she was never there.
I stopped at the top of the hill and looked around. The view from where I stood was very pleasing. I felt the breeze against my skin. Sweet smells were carried to me from the nearby fields. I spotted a gentle flowing river that was sparkling in the sun. Several birds were circling high in the sky. I closed my eyes so that I could absorb the sounds and sensations of the world around me
I was at a major crossroad in my life. Why did I even care about someone who evidently could never return my affection? Come to think about it, I had never met a woman that I felt really loved me. Maybe it was all a myth. Maybe it's not possible for a woman to love a man the way a man loves a woman. Maybe it's me that is the one who is unlovable.
When I would look at my wife, tender thoughts would begin to pass through my mind. It could be the gentle curve of a bare shoulder. It could be the sight of a slender ankle. It might be the way her hair moved softly in the breeze.
I would begin to observe and look until I wanted to act on my feelings. I would attempt to stroke her hair, only to be chided that it had just been combed. Whom had she combed it for? I knew we were not going out. Had she combed it for me or for herself?
I gradually began to develop the conviction that all women are probably the same. They are just different from us and that is the way it has been since time began. Fortunately, they at least need us to make babies and then it is a big "see ya later." Of course they often want us to continue to work and be a provider for their daily needs, but other than that, they are content to derive their affection from the kids.
In my case, she didn't even want to have kids. I gradually came to the realization that if I was going to attempt to live life to the fullest, I needed to attempt it as a single man. I had observed a few friends that were single and they seemed happy. I had finally reached the point where I decided to at least give it a try.
I love the outdoors. I could spend every waking moment in nature if I were able. I decided to put all my energy into becoming one with nature. In the past, I had sat in my camouflage for hours, waiting for the show that I knew nature would provide. I was never disappointed.
I hopped back on my bike and continued my ride. My brief stop had invigorated me and had reminded me of some memorable events that I experienced while spending time in the wild. As I continued my ride, I continued to think about my future and where that path might lead.
And now, here I was on a peaceful lake, enjoying a beautiful morning. My dog Bud was with me. I had picked him up about a year before I had left the house. My wife had protested strongly. I had agreed to never let him enter the house. His presence had been a constant source of contention.
During the next year, I had learned that he would always accept me. He constantly let me know that my presence was appreciated. We had quickly developed a connection and seemed to be able to read each other's thoughts. Currently, he was lying on the bottom of the boat, enjoying the quiet.
He was a beautiful dog, an Irish Setter. His beautiful reddish coat shimmered in the morning light. He looked toward me and I could see the intelligence in his dark eyes. He gave a slight yelp to let me know we had connected. He knew that if he came to me, I would tousle his head and gently rub his belly. He was my pal.
I cast my lure toward a sheltered cove along the shore. I had spotted a tree trunk that had fallen and was angled into the water. It seemed like a good place for a fish to lurk. As soon as the lure hit the water, the excitement began. The surface exploded as hundreds of droplets were shot high into the air.
I pulled back on my rod and instantly knew I had located a very nice fish. At first he dove down, but then he came out of the water in a spray of mist. The colors on his body were brilliantly displayed as they were captured by the rays of light. The mighty body twisted back and forth in an attempt to dislodge the hook. His momentum finally slowed and he fell back into the water.
Bud was now up and taking great interest in the interaction between man and fish. My drag sang as the fish ran to deeper water. Again the surface came to life as the fish soared high into the air. Again there was a furious attempt to dislodge the hook. I had earlier made sure that all my hooks were sharp and ready. I knew that his attempts to escape would probably be for nothing.
He continued to battle for his freedom. Several more times he leaped high in the air. Each time he jumped, the height of the jump became a little shorter. I continued to apply pressure until he had finally exhausted himself. When I felt less tension on my line, I reeled him close to the boat. He made one more run and then accepted his fate.
I gently lifted him out of the water. He was a beautiful fish. Although the look in his eyes appeared to show exhaustion, I thought I spotted a bit of defiance. I admired the mighty bass and snapped a few pictures. Then I gently removed the hook and placed him back into the water.
He appeared to hesitate as he lay there, suspended in the water. Was it hard for him to believe that I would let him go? Or was he just too tired from the battle in which he had fought so valiantly? Whatever the case, he finally made a swish of his great tail and quickly returned to the depths.
It had been a wonderful interaction. He had given me a fight to remember. I had taken a few minutes out of his day. He might experience a sore jaw, but scientists have assured me that a fish feels no pain. I had given him his freedom and had allowed him to live another day. He had been a worthy adversary and had earned the right to once again inhabit those waters.
I sat back to contemplate the last few minutes of my life. During the battle, all my senses had been directed toward that one task. I was in the zone and all my being had been directed to the activity at hand. Other things around me had been shoved into the background and my attention had been directed upon the catching of that great fish.
What an amazing feeling that had been. Every fiber in my body had become coordinated in the effort to land that fish. Sight, sound, hearing, feeling, and maybe even smelling had been unconsciously directed into an interaction with nature. What an amazing body we have. How wonderful it felt to have been drawn closer to being one with my surroundings.
I must have sat there for fifteen minute as I thought back on the battle with the bass. Suddenly, I saw a movement in the water. If I had been on a marshy lake, I would have thought it looked like a giant carp moving under the water. But the lake I was on was clear and slightly tannin colored. The object in the water moved silently, except for the slight ripples on the water. Whatever it was, it appeared to be moving very gracefully under the surface of the lake. The other thing that I noticed was that it appeared to be huge.
I thought I could make out a dark shadow that seemed to be maybe five feet in length. The length was not that unusual, it was the thickness. From my point of view, it seemed to be as wide as a human. I stopped to take a reality check. It was one of the most unusual things I had ever seen. From previous experience, I knew that I should always be ready for new experiences and surprises in the wild. This was definitely going to be one of them.
Bud was now in the bow of the boat. All his attention was directed to the movement in the water in front of him. I sensed uneasiness in his demeanor. A deep low growl reverberated from his chest. Whatever had caused the disturbance, Bud had seen it too. I was now assured that my eyes had not been playing tricks on me.
Gradually the water returned to the soft ripples that I had experienced previously. Maybe it was just a giant turtle and the large size had been an optical illusion. I thought about it for a few more minutes before returning to my fishing. The fight with the bass had stimulated my appetite and I now needed to catch several smaller fish that would fit nicely in my frying pan. I added the encounter to my list of other unexplained experiences that I had encountered while out in the wild. Maybe someday I would find an explanation.