There is little in life that does a better job of centering one’s attention than an ill-timed death.
When writer and poet Jim Harrison died, in late March, just a few weeks ago, I was stopped in my tracks. After the news sunk in I went into a small frenzy. I reminded myself that I liked Harrison though I didn’t immediately remember why. I scurried to the bookshelf and picked out my only book of his, Just Before Dark, and set off on a private reunion tour of his writing and philosophy, which in all my crassness (though with utmost respect) distill into the compact cliché, be here now.
Seriously. Harrison, known for his gift of memory, was a fierce enemy of same. The epigraph to Just Before is a line attributed to another poet, Wallace Stevens, which is: The worst of all things is not to live in a physical world. To you (and you, and you) the admonition, as it relates to Harrison’s life or not, may come as no surprise. As in: hey buddy, don’t live in your head. You get it. To me, however, it remains purely aspirational, distant as the moon or Tahiti. And therefore I need to read/reread Harrison to remind myself of potholes that can rob life of joy and reality.
Harrison wrote that “I have a good memory, though good is somewhat questionable, since there is a tendency to over-remember life rather then to look for new life to be lived.” Harrison talks a lot about memory as both a prompt for his writing and as a hang-up that holds him back.
In any case, be forewarned — a reading, rereading or even dabbling in Jim Harrison can cause extreme dizziness, but a good dizziness, like a breath of pure oxygen. Come by the bnb (hardly a better place to celebrate the now) and I’ll turn you on to my tome of Harrison’s non-fiction. You’ll thank me.
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In no particular order, these past weeks we:
1. Enjoyed two weeks in Osaka doing little more than cooking, eating, sleeping, biking, communing with family and contemplating what living in Japan might feel like. We also enjoyed some Shanghai street-life, two unique airbnb’s and a couple of mornings and evenings in China (loved the energy of the locals, the metro system, the food; not so much the smog and deep divide that separates the haves and the have-nots).
2. We returned to a roller-coaster of rain and other weather extremes — thunder, lightening, a rising and falling river, chillingly cold nighttime temps and all manner of days as well as a late-season steelhead run and rush of utterly charming and engaging guests.
Zach and Andrew: Good friends, soon to be related by marriage (Zack marrying Andrew’s sister), these two were on a mission to have fun. From the Columbia River gorge to the redwoods to the forlorn beaches of the Lost Coast to SFO and home back in ATL, we’ve rarely hosted such gents. Oh, and we loved the photo shows each morning (as both are professional photographers/videographers).
Ryan and Heidi with kids, Gretta and Juliet: I’ve never met younger kids who so effortlessly carried grown-up names. And I was worried about breaking my own rules! Naaa. Even the parents were well behaved. Caught them one night playing chess! Super sweet, caring, involved, and apparently it’s all paying off. Start spreading the news — fully functional family is in the house!
Hope and Tom: Think you don’t have time to vacation and get back to basics? Ask the busy bees who teach, practice a discipline, are committed to rescuing dogs and horses, and still steal time for themselves and each other (and each other’s family!). The perfect couple? Maybe. Certainly among the most decent, sharing, and caring of guests we’ve hosted.
Anna and Guy. Ah, the Europeans. Wait….not a joke. We love Europeans, adore the Brits (Anna and Guy a hybrid pairing). Bestest take-away from their stay, apart from the constant hum of good vibrations — tips galore on walking tours to be had in the British Isles. We are sold!
Peter and Kay, and daughter Alison: Texans (by way of England again…do I sense a trend?) who again remind Meg and I of the qualities of Texans we love. Their openness; their willingness to share opinions, beliefs, ideas, advice; their ability to emote and avoid killing the moment by unnecessary editing (if you’re a good sort, what’s there to edit?), and plain old courtesy. Thanks for the lovely stay and hearty conversation — all over the map (literally!).
Nicole, Said, and Fabio: Another geographic plug, this time it’s the Germans that come in for accolades. True, I used to have a big X over the map of Germany. I just had no curiosity. What did I know. Hip, open, unafraid to discuss and compare cultures and lessons learned. One-night stays don’t offer much time to relate but I am sure I could spend a week with this trio and not run out of topics to discuss or experiences to enjoy. I am sold!
3. And then there is Molly. MVP at the bnb and bottomless pit of love and attention-seeking who is, as we speak, off her game. She is fighting back a bout of nystagmus (mostly departed, at least today) and still-present but less intense symptoms of vestibular disease (walks like a drunken sailor). Here she is getting the diagnosis from the DVM. Sadder in the photo than she is today…IOW she is improved and almost smiling.
We’re about to kick off our fifth summer in the redwoods. Everyone’s invited, to enjoy a steady supply of muffins as well as walks along the river, ocean, and among the trees. I might try some new recipes and there’s even a new restaurant or two in Crescent City to try on nights I don’t feel like cooking.
If the wildfires stay clear (and with all the rain, it feels like they will) we should be in for a fantastic summer. Stay in touch and give a call or email if you plan on coming by.