As Good A Day To Die As Any

On 26 March 2016, Jim Harrison died. As I write these words his publishing company – Grove Atlantic – indicates the cause of death “has not been determined.” This makes me howl with laughter, and clearly reveals this particular spokesperson at Grove Atlantic didn’t understand Jim Harrison. Oh sure, there will be some specific reason that will fill that empty line on a medical examiner’s report. But Jim Harrison died because he lived up all of his life, there was no more. And so he did what comes next, he died.
I will write more about this important voice in my life in a day or so. I need to mourn a bit, dig out a few of my favorite poems, possibly get lost for the hundredth time in “The Man Who Gave Up His Name” or “Legends of the Fall.” When you’ve read everything an author has written (and I have), and when so many of those written things resonate marrow-deep in your bones (and they do), then you feel something with that author beyond closeness. In the case of Jim Harrison, I believe the word is love.

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  1. The Keeper of me on March 28, 2016 at 1:35 am

    Legends of the Fall…was a magnificent and gut wrenching read and movie. It simply slayed me with it’s depth of pain and messages of family and brokenness and love. I’m so sorry the world is losing so many voices that have changed me. I can tell you are having a personal loss as well. He left us deeply moved. RIP, what a legacy!

  2. Anne Bethea on March 28, 2016 at 2:17 am

    Beautifully said.

  3. Jacky on March 28, 2016 at 6:14 am

    What is this about a dead man rising ? Sorry. I had no knowledge of Jim Harrison until I read your tribute and M. Fox’s article in NYT. Now he has my attention. Eager to hear more.
    Easter is always surprising me.

  4. Michele Morin on March 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    When I learned that Madeleine L’Engle had passed away the world felt like a howling wasteland for days and days. It’s so hard when a favorite writer leaves this world. I’ve never read anything by Jim Harrison but it appears that I need to.

  5. Bare Branches on March 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    It hit hard when you shared he had died, though not like it will have hit you. I don’t guess I would have heard of his work at were it not for you, so thank you for sharing the love you had for him. We were all ennobled by reading him.

    It was this passage you shared from Returning to Earth that led me to pick up the book; if I recall you shared it in a letter you’d sent to someone close to him, hoping to meet him? I’d read some of his poetry, but not any of his novels.

    “Anyway, it was plain to me that these three ravens wanted to know why I was sitting there. I wasn’t so sure myself but I told them t had had a short vision I was going to get sick and die…I told them I wasn’t too much bothered by my coming death because it’s what happens to all living things sooner or later. Later would be better but it’s not for me to decide. I also told these ravens about a funeral of their kind I had seen a few miles inland from Whitefish Point a few years back. A real old raven had fallen slowly down through the branches of a hemlock tree over a period of two hours, grabbing hold of a branch now and then with his or her last strength, while around the bird about three dozen of his family were whirling. I heard the soft sound when he finally hit the ground…They showed no signs of leaving so I also told them of my vision of my mother and father sitting beside a creek with a sleeping bear beside them as if it were a pet dog. My mother and father looked wonderful and they said, “Don’t be afraid to come home, son.”

    Imagining that raven, descending slowly, grabbed me right in the throat and I had to read.

    This will be hard for some time. I’m sorry for your loss John.


  6. Robert Benson on March 28, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    JOHN —

    What a lovely note. I am sorry for your loss, I know the feeling, I think, having lost many of my own heroes in the last few months. My feelings about the word you used — love — is the same I have used for them. I ‘spect you are right to use it. Keep paying attention.


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