A lot has happened since our last exchange. You successfully defended your dissertation, and soon the University of Virginia will hood you (right?) and we can call you Dr. Collier. I’m so amazingly proud of you, my friend. And that you were able to do your dissertation on Wendell Berry’s fiction, man, that’s top-drawer, really top-drawer. You’ve worked hard toward this goal. I so hope you’ll celebrate for the duration of spring, squeeze out every drop of joy you can find. Have I ever told you that Dr. Collier was the name of my childhood dentist? He was a dear friend of our family, a good, good man.
And me? Yes, I released my first book of poetry. But you know that because you were such an advocate for the thing, encouraging me all along my via dolorosa of self-publishing. Thank you, Winn, I mean that. Of course that book release coincided with my 50th birthday, and I gotta tell you, that shook me a little more than I expected and/or admitted. I’ve always been fairly reflective (which at times can be a pain in the gluteus minimus), but the realization that I’m at the halfway mark, the mid-point even though few live to see 100 these days, well, it gave me an unfamiliar pause. Then I got my paperwork in the mail to receive my AARP card. Yeah, that one riled me for a few seconds, I was like, “Don’t rush me, you ugly sons of perdition.” Then I laughed out loud, they’re just doing their job, notifying people who are now 50, people like me.
Yesterday marked a year now since Jim Harrison died. I miss his vivid, sensual exuberance about life. His writings are still with us though, and I noticed a new release of some of his lesser-known essays. I’ll have to add that one to the Harrison-shelf. But his lust for life, that’s what I miss…man he was something. I think that’s what I don’t see in most people of faith I come across, which baffles the baffle out of me. There’s this cuisine minceur approach to faith that almost seems afraid of the physical world we live in, fearful of gaining worldly weight and not being found spiritually slim and trim when the Lord comes back, like if we’re a bit too heavy for having loved this world too much we won’t be able to levitate and then fly on up into the clouds toward our mansions just over the hilltop. In my opinion its a fear of enjoying the things of earth, which includes enjoying our own selves, which means the whole thing is a variation on the theme of self-hatred, which so contradicts all the praise and worship some folks do, which is weird and confusing because they’re giving thumbs-up to the Creator while at the same time saying, “But we’re not too keen on some of the stuff you created.” So in essence we cancel ourselves out, literally, and heaven weeps.
You can’t tell that stuff to many people of faith though, most’ll look at you like a calf at a new gate. You’ve simply got to live it yourself and pray to God the sound of the ruckus around your dinner-table causes them to press their noses against the glass of your life and wonder what in the world is going on in there? I believe Jesus was a vivid, sensual bundle of exuberance while he walked this earth. I do. Meredith and I watched Chocolat the other night. I love that movie because its about the abundant life, life lived to the full, John 10:10 and Juliette Binoche and all that jazz.
Maybe the likes of Dr. Collier and John the Older can be like a sly wind that blows in from the North…