Thursday, October 17, 2013

Goodbye to a Writer

-  The Fall 2013 trip is dedicated to John Graves (1920 - 2013)  -

For those of you who are serious readers of The Book, you are invited to pick out your favorite passages to share in camp next month.   We will hang one of the dinner bell triangles from the tripod and ring it whenever someone is moved to read out loud.   Since it alternates between canoe trip narrative and philosophical commentary, feel free to choose one (or more) of each.  Without forfeiting my turn around the fire, here's a couple of good examples:

In the morning there I saw day come.  Not in the way you usually see it if you're up, over a stretch of a half-hour or so.  I saw it come.  I was standing on the beach, with light fog eddying about my legs, and was looking down the river along the dark shoreline fading into mists.  Everything was a dull blue-gray.  Then the sand was yellow and the trees gold and red and green, and though clouds and fog still hid the sun I knew that I had seen the abrupt instant of its rising. 

Coffee, and a piece of cold fried bass . . . I felt no hurry to leave that place until I knew for certain that the big cold had hung up to the north of us somewhere, as it probably had.  So I smoked, and drank more coffee, and made an expedition back into the brush after a high, sad, slow whistler's song.  

The thing was, I had once known what bird that whistle belonged to.  Knowledge of that kind takes so long to come by, solidly at least, and there is so much of it to try to have before you die, if you care anything about it, that to lose any small part of what you do have seems unfair. 

Goodbye to a River, pp. 106-07.



Origin being as it is an accident outside the scope of one's will, I tend not to seek much credit for being a Texan.  Often (breathes there a man?) I can work up some proud warmth about the fact that I indubitably am one.  A lot of the time, though, I'd as soon be forty other kinds of men I've known.  I've lived much away from that region, and have liked most of the places I've lived in.  I used to know who the good bullfighters were and why they were good.  I'm familiar with the washed silent streets of Manhattan at five o'clock in the morning, and what Los Angeles promises in the evening when you're young with money on your hip, and once almost saw the rats change sewers swarmingly in Paris, and did see dawn wash the top of the old wall at Avila. . . . I've waked in the green freshness of mountain mornings in tropical lands, and have heard the strange birds cry, and the street vendors, and maybe music somewhere, and have felt the hit of it like a fist in my stomach, going sleepy-eyed out onto a balcony under the green mountains and above flame-flower trees to thank God for life and for being there.  And I'm glad I have. 

If a man couldn't escape what he came from, we would most of us still be peasants in Old World hovels.  But if, having escaped or not, he wants in some way to know himself, define himself, and tried to do it without taking  into account the thing he came from, he is writing without any ink in his pen. 

Goodbye to a River, pp. 144 - 45.