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Monday, April 24, 2023

Which Way to Turn?

Hwy 186, roadside wildflowers

It’s midday on Sunday and too warm in the sun to go for a walk. Tip of the hat there to a late Michigan friend, who would never listen to complaints of a hot summer day (in Michigan) after the long, cold winter. He convinced me to say warm instead, and now I think of him every time I have occasion to say it. 


Sunny and I were out at sunrise and back home in the shade by 8 a.m. We could have been out earlier than that, not waiting for sunrise, but the momma was moving slowly, and I’ve pretty much kept the same slow pace most of the day, going at my packing in a random puttering mode, the same approach I usually take to housecleaning. There’s a lot of parallel between those two multitask projects. Just now, though, a nap would be welcome. “To sleep, perchance to dream”? No, I don’t consider dreaming a problem, since I’m always hoping to have a little conversation with the Artist in my dreams. It’s the getting-to-sleep part that can be so elusive.


But what shall it be today, books or an outdoor adventure? I have photographs I haven't posted from an ordinary morning dog walk in the ghost town neighborhood, as well as thoughts about one particular shelf of books important to the Artist and to me.


Say, here’s a crazy idea: I could alternate book notes with adventure photographs, going back and forth between indoors and outdoors. Does that sound completely off the wall? No matter, I’m going to try it -- and if I give up and don’t post the result, you won’t be reading this at all, so ha!


Where to begin?

One of many full bookshelves

Books: I’m sitting in the big chair right next to the bookcase with the shelf contents I've been thinking of sharing, so let’s start here. We’ll go left to right, the way we read a book, although the first shelf item on the left isn’t a book at all but a calendar for 2021, with photographs of our great-grandsons from 2020. Below you see the cover. My stepdaughter has chosen the photographs and put together a calendar of the boys every year since they were born. 

Then, right snug up against the calendar is a beautiful Phaidon volume of the pastels of Odilon Redon. A gift inscription inside reads:


I thought you would enjoy seeing one of the painters who inspired Chagall in his early days – 

I think Redon is to Chagall what Vivaldo is to Bach.


There are three givers’ names, but clearly only one (‘I’) of them wrote the inscription. Oddly, I don’t remember which of us, the Artist or I, discovered and purchased this book. I can only say that Redon has long been a favorite of mine and that the Artist with whom I shared a life did not disparage that preference.

Gus and Henry

Odilon Redon

Outdoors: I have two folders of Mascot Mine Road photos, as my friend and I have often found ourselves on that road, either starting out for higher ground or coming out on the road after hiking straight back uphill and through washes. Such ordinary morning dog walks aren’t the kind that require extensive thought ahead of time. We just choose alternatives as they present themselves and see where we end up. The concrete structure in the photo below, however (we’re looking up at it in this image), is one I hadn’t seen close up before, so we left the road and started toward it. 



Books: When the Artist and I ran across a reference to a book about Richard Brautigan, David was intrigued, as he had had occasion to hang out with Brautigan one fall when the writer came to Leelanau County to visit Jim Harrison. Since neither Richard nor David hunted, the two of them rode around the county together while Jim and his other buddies were in the field with their dogs. To make the book more intriguing to us, the author, Willliam Hjortsberg, is the father of poet Max Hjortsberg, married to Jim's younger daughter. 


Jubilee Hitchhiker is a very big book, 859 pages long, and weighing roughly seven pounds. David was rather overwhelmed by the amount of detail in the account of Brautigan’s death. I ordered the book from here in Dos Cabezas in March of 2021 and can’t say for sure if the Artist managed to read it all or skipped around from one part to another.

Outdoors: Okay, brace yourselves for the big, scary, unexpected moment, neither telegraphed nor captured in the photograph below of my friend approaching the concrete structure. As we reached the structure, I asked my friend something about it, and then, as we were gazing down over the edge, I stupidly asked Sunny if she wanted to put her paws up on the edge and look over with us. I mean, I thought she would do it just that way, but no! My puppy jumped up onto the edge and would have been over and down, down, down in a flash if I hadn’t immediately grabbed her! We called the dogs away from there and had quite a discussion on what kind of the equipment and gymnastics would have been necessary to get her out, had Sunny fallen in! It is very deep!

Books: And now, back to the bookshelf, we reach Melville’s Moby Dick, one of the Artist’s all-time favorite books – or so he said, although when it came to re-reading (my barometer for what “favorite book” means), he was far more likely to choose Wind in the Willows or Harlan Hubbard’s Shantyboat or Machiavelli’s The Prince or the classic Zen in the Art of Archery or Jim Harrison’s memoir, Off to the Side. Still, when asked what he considered the best book ever written, he generally named Moby Dick, and this Reader’s Digest edition – unabridged, please note! – is a handsome volume, perfect for picking up and opening anywhere, which is the way the Artist often liked to read his favorite books. 

Outdoors: Below you see some of the hardest sort of climbing: loose rocks. Why are we taking this difficult route, anyway???



Books: Here is one of the Artist’s favorite books, for sure. The photograph on the front of the dust jacket shows Jim pretty much as he was when I first made his acquaintance. The front flap is tucked in where the Artist was last reading, at page 118. (He had read the entire book numerous times.) A paragraph on that page begins, 


When I was around fourteen and became a Bible-thumping fundamentalist for a year or so it was my curiosity that stole my faith. A Baptist minister told me that I shouldn’t be reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and that Beethoven and Mozart were the devil’s music.

        - Jim Harrison, Off to the Side 


Yes, those were indeed simpler times....


Outdoors: Now we are going sideways, approaching our favorite, near-to-home “ruins” from the loose rock slope, rather than the easy-to-walk road. I am so glad to get to solid footing at last. Very solid!


Books: Billy Collins, another poet. The Artist enjoyed Billy Collins, and I was happy to take him a copy of The Trouble with Poetry for Valentine’s Day when he was in the hospital in – which time was it? Chandler, I guess. That’s when he asked me to hand him his shoulder bag so he could inscribe and give me the book he had brought to the hospital. The last hospital, that was….

Outdoors: “Ruins” again, now close up. We are at mid-level here.

Books: Paris Was Ours: Thirty-Two Writers Reflect on the City of Light. He loved this book! (And Paris was ours!) It was also one of the essays in this book that convinced the Artist that he wanted, at last, to read Proust.

Outdoors: From the sublime to the comic, I give you now – dog butts!

Books: A couple of little paperbacks come next, Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery and Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches, followed by a mass market paperback, Ava: My Story, by Ava Gardner. He was crazy about Ava Gardner! 

Outdoors: For me, part of the appeal of this particular set of mining ruins was the way it reminded me of Mayan ruins in Mexico. Here we are high above and looking down on the Mascot Mine Road. If you click on the image and employ the magic of zoom, you’ll be able to see cattle grazing on the hillside opposite.

Books: The Book of Unusual Knowledge was a Christmas gift from a brother-in-law that really hit the mark. For one thing, it is definitely an open-anywhere kind of book, and for another it’s full of odd and surprising facts and stories. He loved that kind of browsing.

Outdoors: Another aspect of the “ruins” that seem much older than the early 20th century. But then, these structures were built a hundred years ago….

Books: More books by another friend, these two novels by Ellen Airgood. The more recent, Tin Camp Road, is an ARC and inscribed “To Pamela and David, with love.” (We love you, too, Ellen and Rick! Such happy memories in Grand Marais!) Airgood perfectly captures place in her books. Also, real life!

Outdoors: Again, below, zooming may be in order. Don’t these stones look as if frost has painted their edges? I think it’s some kind of calcium deposit, but I really don’t know.

Books: We arrive now at the French connection: Swann’s Way, the birthday present he didn’t live long enough to read; My Life in France, the Julia Child memoir we read aloud to each other with infinite enjoyment; and a little paperback Simenon policier


Outdoors: Now for two obvious mineral deposits below, iron and calcium. 

Books: A slim booklet by another friend, author Kathleen Stocking, called “Looking for God’s Infinite Plan in the Footprints of Wolves,” is followed on the shelf by a heavy volume comprising three complete Jane Austen novels. I don’t know that the Artist ever read any of Austen’s books, but he knew I loved them (know them almost by heart), so he was always agreeable to watching a movie version, even the long BBC series of “Pride and Prejudice” starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Oh, wait, wait, wait! One time I began reading Pride and Prejudice aloud to him, and he was pleasantly surprised to realize that it was funny. No one had ever told him that before, he said. I’m pretty sure we didn’t read the whole book, though.

Outdoors: Here we have a view of Mascot Mine Road on a different day, under cloudy skies. Somewhere I have more photos of Sunny and Yogi at the ruins, but where are they? Maybe on my phone?

Books: Peter Matthiessen is another writer David met through Jim Harrison. I have the paperback copy of The Snow Leopard on this shelf, a hardcover copy on the shelf below. Then come three more little paperbacks, these by Farley Mowat. We read People of the Deer aloud together and often quoted from the movie version of Never Cry Wolf: “Good idea!” Then River Notes, by Barry Lopez. Our rivers were the Paw Paw, the Kalamazoo, the Little Rabbit, the Crystal, and the Leland River (formerly known as the Carp).

Outdoors: But what you really want from outdoor adventures is dogs, not architecture, so here are Sunny and Yogi, together again after a separation of almost two weeks. 

AET: Always Expecting Treats!

Books: Almost done now, and here we are with Antoine de St.-Exupéry’s Vol de Nuit and The Little Prince. I have referenced The Little Prince more than once on this blog, having to do first with losing Peasy, our troubled dog, and then again after I lost the Artist.

Outdoors: I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s about all the back-and-forth I can take, and luckily we have reached the end of the bookshelf. Your reward for sticking with me -- and a freebie for those who cheated by just scrolling for the photos -- is one last happy photo of Sunny Juliet, with her Dos Cabezas pal, Yogi. 

Thanks for enjoying our Arizona adventures with us. Sunny and I will be seeing you back in Michigan before too long. 


Anonymous said...

What an absolutely perfect post! I love the back-and-forth, loved the memories and the photos! Thank you!

Unknown said...


Karen Casebeer said...

Great back-and-forth post, Pamela. I love the blue skies with the clouds too. Soooo glad you caught Sunny before a potential disaster. You had my heart beating fast! Karen

P. J. Grath said...

I was more skeptical about this post than any I've done before, but it has been very well received. I'm encouraged now to try more experiments in future.

Cheri said...

It never occurred to me that I could get to you on Blogger, and hopefully resume our blog friendship, until now. I thought I would be able to continue my own blog, but so far all I can do is start anew. I have no way to just keep going.

So, let's just pick up where we left off. I have read all your interim posts and look forward to resuming my own blog after the months I was pretty much computerless. I did post off and on, but now I am the proud owner of a new chromebook. I can't figure out how to just ad on to the blog I had. I wanted to, butI had changed all the passwords, etc.

P. J. Grath said...

Cheri, I am so happy to hear from you and to hear that will get back to blogging! I've missed those glimpses into your life. Something to look forward to!