Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder, and you’ll find there is no reader. Just you and the page. Feel lonely? Good. Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone.
-Richard Hugo from his excellent book entitled The Triggering Town.
Herons seem to be keeping most of the ancient records and they are not talking so we must begin with a time when many of us came here. By us, I do not mean fur-trappers or the cavalry or cowboys or miners or loggers or even indigenous peoples. I mean people like you. Tired and doubting everything you once believed in, washed up into this eddy of manifest movement, swirling just out of reach of mountains and wilderness that beckon to you, but the inertia of your existence prevents the actual realization of the dream of becoming one with the wild. And I can tell you from experience that the wild is very grateful that our lives are so filled with self induced trivialities that prevent this rendezvous, because the wild does not need or want us. The wild has seen what a huge mess we have made of civilization and would just as soon we watched it on television with our children who do not really share our unrealized dreams anyway.
Those same kids, our progeny, are just trying to stay out of our way while we swirl in our little personal eddies. Like animals everywhere, they stare at us interested but unable to help.
A white haired lady talking to herself and walking past a dentist’s office suddenly stops in mid-stride. She looks about her in a panic. She does not recognize anything. Perhaps, in her mind, she had been walking in the past with her long dead husband and talking to him about where they were going and everything was ok until she looked up and noticed that it is no longer 1963. She also realized that her husband was not there. Instantly, she understood to her horror that she was alone. Suddenly, everything she once knew is now wrong. I ask her if I can help her. She stares at me blankly without smiling. “I’m lost.” she says.
“What is your address.” I ask.
A smile comes over her face as she realizes something.
“I live over there.” She points at a brick building nearby where old folks live.
There are few landmarks remaining to guide the lost in Missoula. There is the statue of a bear on a campus nearby and an old building or two, but most things we once recognized are now buried under a layer of development that just keeps piling up. Our own lives get in the way of history, but history is a D-8 cat and you can’t stop it. It will drop its blade and push us into the layers that form the tracks of its passing. Soon and way before any of us knows it, we are a forgotten layer of sediment. What about freedom to explore existence?
“It’s warm and stinky. But, it’s all we got.”
– Marshall Micah speaking to his prisoner about a spring while guiding him through the desert.
(from an episode of; THE RIFLEMAN 1962)
Ever since hearing this at the age of 9 I have lived my life by this statement.
Nearly all of the corporate executives who attended our survival course are accounted for. And thanks to satellite transmitters which remained attached, we have located most of the cadavers.
Unfortunately for the rest of the contestants, it appears that bears and cougars have eviscerated and scattered the remains, thus making identification and location difficult to pinpoint. We regret the inconvenience.
However, our attorneys wish to state that legally and duly notarized release forms signed by the participants render us exempt from culpability and immune from litigation.
If and when any are found, successful survivors will be regaled and properly decorated in the winner’s circle,
In the meantime, we will roast a pig in the fire pit created by the rescue helicopter’s unfortunate crash landing.
Liquor will be served.
Dress is optional.
Simon’s future as a writer seemed doomed. He had preserved a rich jam of experiences but he couldn’t seem to get the jar open. His wife Angel had suggested children’s books years ago, but Simon’s scientific view of life prevented him from writing stories that made children feel good. The stark realism and objective biological perspective of his version of “Hundred Acre Woods” would have precluded any vocabulary or dialogue thereby avoiding the criticism of anthropomorphosis but robbing the stories of any charm. To make matters worse, the most likely end page would have depicted Tigger sitting contentedly amidst a scattering of Pooh, Piglet and Eeyore bones belching and picking his teeth.
From the Start
Who did I think was listening
when I wrote down the words
in pencil at the beginning
words for singing
to music I did not know
and people I did not know
would read them and stand to sing them
already knowing them
while they sing they have no names
-W.S. Merwin, from his newest book of poetry entitled The Shadow Of Sirius
winner of the 2009 pulitzer prize.
available from copper canyon press.
if you missed his inspiring interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, here it is.
Lefty peered up through the branches of the most gigantic of the pines. He was reverent about the woods like that- always studied a tree carefully before starting his back cut. Some of the other fallers thought he was foolish but Lefty had seen trees do strange things when they fell. Safety was part of it but I really think it was the look a good hunter shares with his quarry before each kill; a look of mutual respect….almost a love for the being itself.
While Lefty stood transfixed, a micro-burst from a distant thunder head blew down through a small notch in the ridge above us. The colossal ancient tree swayed causing a dead limb near the top to break loose from the trunk and ricochet through the branches. It dislodged a hornet’s nest on the way down. There was a soft innocent sounding pop as a dark grey object as big as a basketball flew through the air, bounced on the ground and rolled at Lefty’s feet. There was no time for Lefty to react. A cloud of angry hornets burst from the broken nest. Lefty dropped his chain saw as the insects swarmed his face and hands. He slapped at the swarm and turned to run toward the creek, but he never made more than a couple of steps.
We found lefty sprawled across a log several hundred feet from the water, his features swollen beyond recognition. The hornet’s nest was so riled that the crew had to wait until the sun went down to retrieve the body. The place where Lefty died seemed peaceful and tranquil with cool shady stands of old growth ponderosa pines and small ferns and wild flowers all the way down to Monument creek. Big boulders of black basalt lava rock pocked the hillside and bear sign was everywhere. We never allowed the company to log any more trees in that little valley. We called it lefty’s place and we left it alone.