Apr. 10, 2009

Before the Trip

by Jim Harrison

When old people travel, it's for relief
from a life that they know too well,
not routine but the very long slope
of disbelief in routine, the unbearable
lightness of brushing teeth that aren't all
there, the weakened voice calling out
for the waiter who doesn't turn;
the drink that once was neither here
nor there is now a singular act of worship.
The sun that rises every day says
I don't care to the torments of love
and hate that once pushed one back
and forth on the blood's red wagon.
All dogs have become beautiful
in the way they look at cats and wonder
what to do. Breakfast is an event
and bird flu only a joke of fear the world
keeps playing. On the morning walk
the horizon is ours when we wish.
We know that death is a miracle for everyone
or so the gods say in a whisper of rain
in the immense garden we couldn't quite trace.

"Before the Trip" by Jim Harrison from Saving Daylight. © Copper Canyon Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Joseph Pulitzer, born in Makó, Hungary (1847). He moved to St. Louis, got a job working for the German newspaper there, and worked his way up. By the time he was 30 years old, he owned the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,and then he bought the New York World, which became incredibly successful. After he died, his money was used to start the Columbia School of Journalism and the Pulitzer Prize. He said, "Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together."

It was on this day in 1872 that Nebraskans planted more than 1 million trees, which became the first Arbor Day. Arbor Day was dreamed up by J. Sterling Morton, who worked as a newspaper editor, a governor of the Nebraska Territory, and Grover Cleveland's Secretary of Agriculture. In 1885, the date was changed to April 22 in honor of Morton's birthday. By 1907, Arbor Day was celebrated across the country, and people were taught that planting trees was a patriotic act.

It was on this day in 1925 that F. Scott Fitzgerald's (books by this author) novel The Great Gatsby was published.

It's the birthday of poet Norman Dubie, (books by this author) born in Barre, Vermont (1945).

It's the birthday of Anne Lamott, (books by this author) born in San Francisco (1954). She wrote a few novels, but none of them were very successful. Then when she was in her mid-30s, she got pregnant and her boyfriend left her, and she decided to write a book about a year of raising a child. It was called Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year (1993), her first best seller. She went on to write Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994), Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (1999), and many more books. She said: "If you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."

It's the birthday of novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux, (books by this author) born in Medford, Massachusetts (1941). He wrote a couple of novels, then spent four months traveling across Asia on a train and writing every day, and that became his first best seller, The Great Railway Bazaar (1975). He decided to retrace his steps, and last year he published Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2008), about making the same trip 30 years later. He is the author of more than 25 novels, including Picture Palace(1978), The Mosquito Coast (1981), and Blinding Light (2005). “Travel is a creative act. … The discoveries the traveler makes in broad daylight—the curious problems of the eye he solves—resemble those that thrill and sustain a novelist in his solitude.”

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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