Breakdown in Missoula. Hills like softening hips. Someone claims he’s seen my face in Peterson's Guide to Flowers. White water rafting in Glacier Park among the monkey-flowers mingling with moss. When I look into the eye of a ragged mountain goat, I see my uncle. When I look into the eye of a ragged mountain goat, I see Gary Snyder. I can't concentrate on driving. I start bumping into things. Attending a conference on Literature and Nature. I feel inside out. Because our losses have been confirmed, I have come in search of gurus. Experiencing the urge to be swallowed by all that is not me, I am looking into the eye of what we are losing. Obviously I need to be saved, and my daughter isn't here to see this. We are still in the Pleistocene Age. Whatever comes out of the eye will carve its message in the face. I hear about Alastor and Dorothy Wordsworth and Merleau-Ponty. The presenters are talking about A Thousand Acres and Ken Saro Wiwa. I have come in search of sages. The Japanese poet tells us our sole purpose is to take care of the spiritual interior of words. Kotodama. Either the world exists beneath the miasma of language, or words already live as the light inside things. Like my uncle, I am a farmer. I plant words on paper. Maybe I am afraid because of the damage, the cracks, the longing, the fatigue. We search for places on the campus to cry. It is early evening in Missoula. We cross a bridge where homeless men carve walking sticks. Maybe it is because I am inside out. I have spent a lot of time in places that have disappeared. Barry Lopez is reading his work under a tent, and a double rainbow appears. I have come in search of meaning, the whole sky bursts with rainbows. I have come in search of truths. The oblique and the transparent. The mountains move. In wakeful attentiveness, we climb out of our stories. A broken contract pinned to the sky. A wonderful wound opens up over us. I've lost touch. I am up a riddle without a creek. I am in this maze of language. Maybe it is because I live too much on the inside. Near the end, a man who lives in the Yaak steps up to the podium. He is named after a fish. Standing in front of a full auditorium, he asks us to help him save the Yaak. He starts to cry the tears of the grizzly, the honeybee, the salmon. Taking our wounds, he carries them in his mouth. We are where his silk heart bursts. The problem and the promise: We know what we are capable of. The vulnerability of beauty. The aspen, the fir, the spruce. Maybe it is because of Mount Despair. The flycatchers, waxwings, and swifts. The meadows and ermine. The crying man teaches us to swim. Before I leave Missoula, I see a cluster of wildflowers growing next to the river. The starflower and rosecrown, mountain ash and lupine, elkthistle and fireweeds. Each a torch of consciousness. I write my way in; I write my way out. I haven't risked enough. I have searched too hard for endings, for closure, for finality. When I forget about the desire to be saved, I climb out of my stitches. I want to rub against everything that is alive. At least for now, all around me and inside me, is the intense odor of sage. I know not far away, on a bridge, homeless men are carving walking sticks back into forests. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 6, 2018
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