American poet Robert Frost is famous for many reasons. Chief among them, obviously, is his wonderful poetry and longtime impact on how we Americans view the written word and life itself. One little known fact about Mr. Frost, however, is on March 26, 1959, just before a dinner to honor his 85th birthday, he predicted the next President of the United States would be from New England. Then, when pushed as to who it would be, he matter-of-factly replied, John F. Kennedy, even though JFK was relatively unknown and still a few months away from announcing his candidacy. He was right, of course, and to thank Frost for not only predicting the outcome, but unofficially working on his campaign, JFK personally invited him to read at his inauguration, the first poet to ever do so.
Although there is much more to the story, the gist is JFK asked Frost to compose a special poem for the occasion. When Frost respectfully declined to write the poem, citing his reasons, Kennedy then requested Frost read his 1942 ode to American exceptionalism, “The Gift Outright.” Just prior to the inauguration, however, Frost actually changed his mind and penned an original patriotic poem titled specifically for the event, “Dedication.” As inauguration day dawned, though, much to the chagrin of event planners, nature didn’t get the memo calling for a nice day, instead delivering a raw, cold and windy, but very sunny, day.
The sun was so bright, in fact, Frost could not read the poem even though Vice President Lyndon tried to shield it with his hat. Not wanting to disappoint the enormous and enthusiastic crowd, Frost began reciting “The Gift Outright” from memory, closing the poem with Kennedy’s original request for the last lines to be about saluting America, “Such as she was, such as she would become, has become, what she will become.” Even though Frost was embarrassed over how his presentation unfolded, the audience roared its approval, even glossing over when the 87-year old poet thanked the “president-elect, Mr. John Finley!”
If we remember any poetry at all from high school, we most likely will recall Frost’s quintessential 1922 poem about our individual futures, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and especially its last stanza, where he writes, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.”
As students and staff have sadly now ended their school years without the so important closure and high-fives, hugs, tears, smiles and goodbyes, our lives have definitely gone the same way, ranging from minor inconveniences to not being able to visit loved ones, especially those in hospitals, senior living facilities and families who are as isolated as bowling’s 7-10 split. Even the ultimate goodbyes, funerals, have been put on hold. In light of these, the “promises” Frost wrote about seem almost impossible to keep.
To temper the frustrations of getting over the brick walls that have been suddenly thrown up, we must, however, heed Robert Frost’s succinct and actually not very poetic quote on life when he said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” The question then is, how do we go on? The answer? We again need to listen to Dr. Seuss who said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
So, how do we get back to the basics of life? To find the answer, consider that many of us have already been getting out a bit more to do some fishing, hiking, yard work or just being outdoors. Correspondingly, it seems our dispositions have perked up a touch. Whether we go on like the “beat” in Sonny and Cher’s 1967 generational song, “The Beat Goes On,” or we vow not to make promises we can’t keep like Zac Brown sings of in his 2018 song, “It Goes On,” makes no difference. The key is that we do go on.
Even so, as we “hold on tight to our dream” (ELO), the promises Frost wrote about at times still seem almost impossible to keep and instead of experiencing the “when life serves you lemons, you make lemonade,” riff, our lives seemingly are trending to the sour “Lemon Tree” song realm (written by Will Holt in the late 1950s, popularized by Trini Lopez and Peter, Paul and Mary), where the lyrics say, “Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet/But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”
As a segue, speaking of lemonade, now that the open water fishing is upon us, why not have a fish fry or cook some and safely drop them off for those sheltered? When you head out in a boat or fish off shore, have fun bobbering-up, pumping a jig/minnow or casting and retrieving crankbaits; just watch out for the hooks, they catch more than fish.
Try living the locavore life, that is, eating domestic or wild foods grown and harvested locally. Clean out those freezers and pantries. Use what you need and maybe then donate what you don’t. If you are worried as to how, do the research thing.
If you are going to get out into deer country, do so soon, the leaves, buds and ticks are popcorn popping out and remember, when the leaves get to the size of squirrel’s ears the fish are biting best. Keep feeding those birds, they are not only important to our overall environmental health, they are also essential for our emotional health as nothing quite matches the beauty and freedom of our feathered friends. If you don’t think so, consider what one of Minnesota’s favorite sons, internationally famed aviator, Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindberg, once said, “If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”
If you live and feed birds in bear country, though, beware, because they are what they are, and because the “Yogi” clan is now very much on the prowl for food, garbage cans and bird feeds are prime targets as they have never found any they didn’t like and couldn’t topple and crumple. Also, remember to use extreme caution if you encounter bears, sows with their new cubs can be very unpredictable. If you need seed and feed, by the way, call your local dealers, they can and will gladly provide curbside pick-up. The same goes for minnows. Our bait distributors are also very willing to accommodate.
If you do decide to fish from a dock or shoreline, enjoy the “split-rail” value. If you were wondering, yes, the allusion “split-rail” goes back to Abe Lincoln and his learning the value of not only hard work, but the importance of living off the land. He did not coin the term, though, it was created by the pioneering giant in the environment awareness world, Aldo Leopold, in his 1949 definitive Earth-awareness book, “A Sand County Almanac.” The term is now synonymous with partaking in any activity that reminds us of a past time when people were forced to live off, and thus, with the land.
Of the many rays of sunshine that are currently peeking through these dark cloud days, perhaps this forced refocusing on self and family, this return to self-reliance, might just be in more ways than one—our salvations. Maybe when we plop a bobber, plant a garden, split some wood or cook up some wild game or fish, instead of bemoaning what we don’t have, we might just be grateful for what we do have.
We will leave you with one of Aldo Leopold’s insightful quotes, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”
Nik and Rod Dimich are on Ray’s Sport & Marine’s pro staff and Rod is a pro-staffer for L&M Supply. To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: email@example.com or call 218.259.4051. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.