between here and there

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Living Like Weasels


I’m on the plane headed from Montana to North Carolina to visit life-long friends. Friends whose children have transformed in the past few years into different versions of the creatures they were the last time I visited.

I’m thinking about the visit, great conversation, good, local food, and a few long walks. And as I think about their home I can’t help but land in the middle of my own imaginary “Annie Dillard” land. While it has been many years since Dillard wrote

“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” when I visit my friends I always feel like I am returning to the land and experiences she wrote of many years ago. Beyond Tinker Creek ruminations I realize I mostly transport to the landscape she describes in her short story “Living Like Weasels”, deciduous woods filled with scurrying sounds, that remains a strong touchstone for me even twenty-odd years after reading it the first time. Such a profound reference point for life this story has given me, that I read it every year with my students. A discussion of freedom, choice, intuition, love, living , and instinct pursues. Each discussion , every year, different, but similar in nuance.

Tomorrow I will head into the woods, both real and imagined, for that soulful journey that marries reality with imagination. I will bow to the six directions, as Jim
Harrison notes. I will live for a bit with the weasel and look for the wild rose bush , if I am lucky I will lose myself for a while, lose destination, hear the sounds of the wild woods beyond the motors of cars that hum past the perimeter. I will think about what I should be holding onto, and what is unnecessary. I will smell the woods, look up into the sky for that Eagle she writes of and deliver myself to the World, mindless for as long as I can muster, searching for my necessity in life .

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Today is a slow day. A quiet day. A reflective day. A bit of a sore throat and the sky is threatening some sort of snow. Most days like this also end up being a cleaning day. Cleaning and reflecting . As I was moving some things from here to there in my house I realized I was moving two artifacts that had been given to me by past students. I scanned around and quickly realize that many of the artifacts in my house were given to me by past students. All came at some point along the way after they took a class or classes from me. Many are things they made, from pottery to jewelry. Or a family member made. Some were brought back to me from foreign lands. Some were collected from the Earth. Many I long ago consumed if the came in the form of chocolate or wine. Some came in the form of music , which keeps me young at heart and hearing. Sometimes the gifts have been adventures in themselves like a Wyoming Cattle drive on a remote ranch.

The artifacts blend together with those wild things I collect: feathers, bones, horn and antler, seed and pine cone. They come together to help make the texture and memories of the life I live. And on this quiet , slow day, I take a moment to honor the blessings and gifts I have received in having such great people in my life….and share with you just a few from my first teaching job in North Dakota to just this past year. Each are part of the miles traveled between here there.