Thursday, May 3, 2012

A note to all of my friends whom I have shared life with either because of Mark or with Mark

Hey Fellas,

Thinking of you all today.  Thinking of Mark today.  I can't believe 5 years have passed since the king of adventure moved on from this temporal earth to eternal life in what must have been one of the most intense final moments I could ever imagine.  We used to scope out cliffs to hit while skiing together and rapids to shoot while fishing together.  We used to stand on river banks planning how we could wade across rushing rivers arm in arm and get swept downstream or take water over our waders.  And I laughed and hooted loud enough so that Mark could hear over the rushing water as I watched from safety when he would cross that river alone.  None of that even comes close to what Mark experienced.  And yet, even that intensity and tragedy pales in comparison to where he is today in heaven.

Adventure is amazing.  Adventure is life-giving.  And then every once and a while, life takes.  

I remember being very jealous that he was headed out to Allan's ranch and was about to embark on 2 days of a guided float of the Bear Trap Canyon.  If you are unfamiliar with the location, it is below the dam in Ennis on the Madison River.  As I recall, only 2 outfitters could guide that water by permit and it had to be done via licensed outfitters with rafting boats shooting through sections of class V rapids.  You guys know what I am talking about.... typical Wauterlek conditions... no sissies allowed.  

I think Engie may have been the only other guy to have fished this water with me and with Mark.  We didn't float it though, we hiked for it.  We earned it.  I remember walking this trail a solid 2 miles in from the parking lot and jumping back in terror as we came a few feet from at least half a dozen rattlesnakes.  We made Engie walk in front with his neoprene waders.  Mark and I stayed behind and giggled and snickered all along the way.  

Along our path upriver, huge 12 foot pools with water ripping a foot from the bank made the average man turn back.  We scrambled multiple times up 200 yards of boulder cliffs and down the other side in waders, banging our reels against the rocks because the water was impassible along the bank.   My reel and college ring still carry the marks from those days.   On one occasion we decided to take the river route around another canyon wall.  We waded on our tippy-toes along a cliff-face that was absolutely full of spider webs & spiders.  Mark hated spiders.  Engie and I both took in water over our waders.  Mark, even though being the shortest, walked across unscathed.  Typical. 

The reward?  Massive 20-25" trout crushing the surface for salmonflies like killer whales chasing seals.  It was incredible.  It was the first time I fished the salmon fly hatch.  And after trying another 5 years or so years in a row, I discovered in hindsight the hard way that that time was the "best of the best" in timing the world famous salmonfly hatch.  It was one of those trips where you had no idea how "on" it was, until the day was done and the individual stories were swapped among the party and fish counts were too hard to tally.  Only then, did you discover that you just experienced the pinnacle of something that was "as good as it gets."  After that year, we tried to time a lot of other late June trips to Montana and scouted a lot of water to find the elusive front side of the hatch.  The hatch can move miles upriver each day with great weather or shut off completely with cool temps.  Even if you do find what seems to be the right spot, the bugs are so big that the fish quickly gorge and you might think you are in the perfect spot with bugs everywhere only to find you are throwing a meat chunk to a gorged lion.

Anyway,  lately I've had a hard time sharing anything other than stories.  The moment I move beyond the story and begin dwelling and reliving and feeling the nostalgia and adventures, I get a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

So, today, I'll keep it simple.  Duininck, short for words (but not really), long on stories... weird eh?

I love you guys.  You are my home team.  Some of you I don't get to see very often.  But know that you've got a special place carved out in my life where I think about you, pray for you, and generally think really positive things about who you are and how you have impacted my life and our journeys and adventures together.  

Integrate and graft the best of Mark into your life so that the best of him lives on.

Cherish the past.  Keep it in a happy place in your heart.  But, do not let it drown you as you cross the treacherous rivers in your life.  Live each day like you might not get another.  Live each day like it is a new day to create new memories and new adventures.  Better yet, live each day in all of its fullness with awareness that there is more to come beyond this world.  Discover what that means.  If you don't know, ask those whom you trust and respect.  Best of all, find God.

I am really grateful to know you and have you as a friend.

-Benjamin H. Duininck

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