Sitting on Logs

With National Poetry Month winding down, I thought I would recognize it. I’ve been meaning to for about 28 days now, as a matter of fact. I’ve read more poetry in the past year than I have in my lifetime prior, I think. I’ve even taken to writing it. Last year, I recognized April with one of my own, the first I’d written in at least a couple decades, directly inspired by one from Jim Harrison.

Considering Harrison left us a month ago, I thought this year I would share one of his, this sort of prose poem from his last collection, Dead Man’s Float, to mark the event. It’s one I love, for its beauty and its sadness. I’ll miss the man’s work, though I suspect there is probably some stashed away we’ve yet to see.

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Notes on the Sacred Art of Log Sitting
by Jim Harrison

 

To give the surgeon a better view of my interior carcass I was slashed from neck to tailbone. Recovery was slow and the chief neurologist told me, “You can walk your way out of this.” I began walking out by shuffling down a long hallway. It was very hard on my tender empathy to see so many hopeless cases, especially the truly beautiful girl who was paralyzed for life.

I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. I want to walk in the morning with Zilpha again. Amen.

And I want to bird hunt, which I’ve done with intensity for forty years in a row. Is this even possible? The answer, come to find out, was that I couldn’t keep up. Zilpha would flush some birds then look to me wondering why I hadn’t shot. I was far behind, sitting on an Emory oak log and staring hard at the landscape.

My shuffling mood was always corrected by sitting on an oak log, so I decided to make some notes on the sacred art of log sitting:

  • Approach the log cautiously with proper reverence as if you were entering a French cathedral or the bedroom of your lover.
  • If it’s over 60 degrees, inspect the lower side of the log for Mohave rattlesnakes.
  • Now examine the log closely for the most comfortable place to sit, usually away from the sun.
  • Sit down.
  • Empty your mind of everything except what is in front of you — the natural landscape of the canyon.
  • Dismiss or allow to slide away any aspect of your grand or pathetic life.
  • Breathe softly.
  • Avoid a doze.
  • Internalize what you see in the canyon: the oaks and mesquites, the rumpled and grassy earth, hawks flying by, a few songbirds.
  • Stay put for forty-five minutes to an hour.
  • When you get up bow nine times to the log.
  • Three logs a day is generally my maximum.

When you get in your car it will seem as wretched as it is. A horse would be far better. For hours your mind will still be absorbed in the glory of what you saw rather than mail, emails, cell phones, TV, etc. Hopefully log sitting will allow you to change the contents of your life. You will introduce yourself as a “log sitter” rather than a novelist, detective, or mortician. You will walk more slowly and perhaps your feet will shuffle like mine. I can readily imagine buying a small ranch I’d call “The Log Ranch.” I’d truck in thirty-three logs and arrange them on the property like the Stations of the Cross. This could soothe me during my limited time in the twenty-first century, which has been very coarse indeed. Especially after Zilpha died.

One-Sentence Journal, Week Sixty-Nine

  1. 04/17/2016:  One of the often-overlooked benefits of chocolate ice cream is that if it is slopped on one’s shirt, after it dries it looks like a bloodstain, providing ample opportunities for — if it is remarked on — delivering the classic, “Yeah, well you should see the other guy!” line.
  2. 04/18/2016:  An encounter near the river with a tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl ranks among the best experiences of awe and wonder I’ve had in the woods.
  3. 04/19/2016:  I’m still reflecting quite a bit on the owl last night, the importance of showing up again and again for one’s passions, and how rewarding interacting with the like-minded can be.
  4. 04/20/2016:  An appropriate day to be reminded that I must have been high to think I could successfully photograph the type of event I tried to shoot tonight.
  5. 04/21/2016:  Epic band practice to see how ready we are for next week’s quick multi-show road trip, and it felt good to realize we are in better than adequate form.
  6. 04/22/2016:  I set up this little guerrilla photo studio on the sidewalk downtown this afternoon to shoot portraits, an idea I’ve wanted to try for a couple years now, and it worked perfectly.
  7. 04/23/2016:  The updated version of Disney’s The Jungle Book, which has been well-reviewed, turned out to be better even than I’d hoped.

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Kickin’ and Stickin’

Things have been quiet around here in April, but that’s because I’ve been busy as hell. Mostly I’ve been working on a big project for the Indy, which I’ll talk about when it comes out early in May. Until then, here are the latest things I’ve published in the last couple weeks; again, all via the gracious folks at the Missoula Independent.

Oil Trail: Ken Ilgunas talks Keystone, Plains folk and fear

Q&A with writer Ken Ilgunas, appearing in this week’s edition, for his book, Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland.

Fighting Irish: Timothy Egan’s story of social justice resonates

My review of Egan’s latest work of non-fiction about Irish hero Thomas Meagher, who also served as acting governor of the pre-statehood Montana Territory. Great stuff, as usual for Egan. My only regret is I missed his event in town last night.

What’s Good Here: Eating squirrel with Steven Rinella

This was a fun one, and at 1300+ Facebook likes at the Indy page, it’s easily the most popular thing I’ve ever written for them. It’s an interview with hunter, writer, and host of the Outdoor Channel’s “Meat Eater” television show, Steve Rinella. We’d met once before when his first book came out (which has just been reissued by his current publisher), The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. This published piece is just a fraction of our conversation, and some of the best parts were left on the cutting room floor, if only because the piece was a pinch hit for the regular Food article dude at the Indy. I will likely transcribe and post the entire conversation at some point, because I think it would make for a fun read.

Road stories: Marc Beaudin defies category in Vagabond Song

I met Marc, who lives in Livingston and owns the bookstore there, at last fall’s Montana Book Festival. I enjoyed his book, which I review here, and I enjoyed his event. I wish I’d gone out to beers with him afterward, but I wimped out at the end of what had been a looooong day. I’m certain our paths will cross again more than once, though.

Richmond Fontaine: You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

My review of the first non-movie soundtrack album I’ve bought this year. It’s really good.