He would know the wind, the edible greens, the fresh green smell, the trust, the way the squirrels dig into the woods in the quiet of the winter, and how a piece of the thin ice pane, frozen over the spring at night, should be eaten while washing in the morning. He would know the warmth of snow. Alone, I have watched the snow, gray and blown thickly in the wind, while camping, snuggled warmly, in winter woods. I have stayed dry and warm, at times, when all the world was wet and cold. This all seems very simple, now. He, who so often showed me the way, is gone. He’s not dead, but I’m alone now. I learned from him after days of dirty clothes and yellow teeth, gritted against the burnt fish in my black and smoking fire that was doused because the dishwater pot was too full, and the wood of my tripod, too old and weak. I learned after mornings of awakening wet after the sun had dried the grass, after mornings of arising with my back as stiff as a dead and dried trout, and after suffering more pain from the way I slept than I had suffered before from fifty-mile hikes. I learned to move quiet and still before the spring, so I could watch the deer there, instead of racing eagerly down the path in my own avalanche, before they ran away. I learned to love the deer there. This all seems so simple, now. I’m older, and I’ve moved from the woods and from the country where it snows from November to March, to California with the rain of eyes that, in seeing, become. I wasn’t in Montana very long—four years, but I began to grow there, and it’s the rain of people and its ocean of words that I know now. Those mountains of deer and pine are hundreds of miles and years away, but they find their place. Every memory’s a lesson. I realize that he of my dreamy memories was more than a father and a friend; he was a reflection of myself, one side of me, replacing something that I didn’t have. Therefore I need the ocean. I need to be shown the primary colors, and to dream that there may be more than three. Therefore I need to hear the notes from a melody, to realize that there’s something between them, and that the real music’s there. I need to love the blue of distance, and to feel the secret movements within all that we walk upon. I need this art to help me prove that, after the proof, I am capable of it, and of life, that I am, wholly, the woman and man within myself, and that I can be happy in a river that doesn’t give happiness. We all want somewhere to go, something to do, someone to love, and, somehow, we find ourselves out in what we must make of the world, within what our past has taught us, and we try to take, with that, what we must be.
14 September 1971