Labor Day weekend is not après-Season time. It’s the last big hurrah of The Season, with cars all over the roads and motel reservations a must, but “of The Season” is not “of the summer.” Autumn has arrived with cool temperatures and the first changing leaves, nighttime blankets on the bed and clothes that don’t want to dry completely on the line, even in full sun. Visitors we still have, and the calendar continues to be crowded with special events – life has not yet slowed down (one begins to wonder if it ever will again) -- yet the feeling of September is definitely here, a feeling difficult to pin down but saturated with memories.
I’ve been saving the posthumous collection of Jim Harrison’s essays, A Really Big Lunch, wanting to stretch the anticipation out as long as I could, but finally the other I succumbed to the pleasure, and pleasure it was indeed. Every page, every line, was so completely Jim’s voice that I felt, as I told my husband, as if Jim and Linda were alive again. I’ve never been to Montana and so never visited them in that home, but the descriptions of the house on French Road, of the U.P. cabin and surrounding woods, the Arizona casita and mountains there on the frontera, and even Paris (though my times in Paris were nothing like Harrison’s in any way!) – all those I pictured clearly while hearing Jim’s voice, my mind full of pictures and talk. And Linda, too. For instance, in one of my favorite essays in the book, “Gramps Le Fou,” writing of himself in the third person, Harrison had this to say:
Only a week ago he had announced to his wife that he intended to spend the rest of his life studying wrens, which he loved for their pretty heads and tubby bodies. “That’s a wonderful idea,” she replied.
I just love it. It made me so happy to hear their voices again!
Much in these essays is taken from memory’s hoard – memories of fishing and hunting, of eating and drinking, spectacular meals and memorable bottles of wine remembered again and again, along with the friends who shared the food and wine and the settings in which all were enjoyed. There are also dogs, of course, and there are dreams, and there is aging, and there is pain, but always acknowledgement that someone who has lived so vividly and so well has no grounds for complaint.
...I have no complaints because when not actually writing I get to be outdoors doing important things like hunting, fishing, bird-watching, roasting a wild piglet, studying the sources of creeks, or driving ornate mandalas around the entire country. By profession I collect memories.
The temptation for me is to go on quoting endlessly from A Really Big Lunch (famously, the title meal was a lunch of 37 courses -- but only, as he repeatedly reminds his readers, 19 wines!), but that would be self-indulgent, not to say selfish. Anyone who already loves Harrison’s work or is discovering it for the first time deserves to find his or her own favorite passages. The photos are wonderful, too.
My favorite - whole family + garden
After finishing, with a deep sigh, the last literary gift I can expect from Jim Harrison, it seemed logical to turn to another Michigan writer, Dan Gerber, who lived in Leland for several years. His novel, A Voice From The River (all words in the title are capitalized on the cover and on the title page), from Clark City Press, is one I must have read before but now seem to be “discovering” as if for the first time. When Dan lived in Leland, his favorite pastime one fierce winter seemed to be driving around in his 4-wheel-drive vehicle with heavy winch and rescuing motorists who had gone off icy roads into ditches. Gerber, like Harrison, is a writer I’ve appreciated most for his poetry, but A Voice From The River, a beautifully written, thoroughly original story, had me captivated today at 4 a.m.
Shorter days, cooler days and nights, the long, lovely, slanting fall sunlight, a different cast of blossoms and colors, and a crowd of memories: all that is September. For myself, I cannot deny the beauty of even the deadly invasive purple loosestrife. I would not plant or transplant it, but is it wrong to recognize its beauty when by happenstance we encounter one another?
August is over. Labor Day is almost upon us. I’ll be here in the bookstore on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. but have not committed myself one way or the other about Monday. It will depend on how tired we are ... how many people are still in Northport on Sunday evening ... what kind of weather seems to be coming our way... how we feel. In general, once this weekend is past, I’ll be taking a few days off, probably Sunday and Monday on a regular basis and maybe a few more if we can snag a little break....
Whatever you are doing this holiday weekend, whether working or traveling or staying close to home or getting ready to go back to school, do stay safe! And a really big thanks to everyone for reading Books in Northport and for supporting independent bookstores in your hometown and wherever you travel!
Preparing for departure!