Breakfast With the Lord High Chancellor

You know, there is a lot of crap writing out there these days. It gets undeserved attention. This annoys me. If I hear one more thing about Fifty Shades of Gray I think I might buy a copy, just so that I might release it into the wild, with the hope that its chances for survival are at least as good as that clandestine goldfish after the flush. Blech. May its papers rot amidst the trees who created them. Anyway, you might imagine then, my delight to hear some truly wild, great, effecting writing read this past weekend when David James Duncan headlined The Whitefish Review‘s (a little up-and-coming non-profit literary journal) WILD Issue release party on Saturday night. You can read Cherish This Ecstasy, one of the brief essays he read,  here. It involves falcons mating with hats, ornithological-related wet dreams, Dostoevsky, divorce, and the inescapable act of being loved. Seriously, do yourself a favor.

I’ve admired David for a long time. I think he is one of the great new and unlikely spiritual leaders of our time–master of fearless reverence and irreverence. We’ve corresponded a bit for a couple of years now, but had never met in person, so I was exceedingly pleased to share breakfast with him the next morning–and even more delighted to find him just as intuitive, hilarious, open, and eloquent in person as his words would have you believe. It didn’t matter if we were talking about dam-removal related death threats, or the amorous affairs of a certain legendary writer, or baseball positions, or politics, or cheese. I would have been happy to talk to him about anything. Certain people write the words, think the thoughts, see and feel the things, the great and terrible things, the beautiful mysteries…the grace… that make the world better. Make me better. These rare people don’t just feed souls, they make them glow. Its no wonder they band together, drinking wine late into the night, armed with fishing poles and butterfly nets and worn-out boots. Orion has been bringing these voices-in-the-wilderness together for years in a poignant alchemy. Too many to name here. Desert wizards, mountain prophets, river bards. I remain eternally grateful for my time at that magazine, and for the opportunity it gave me to meet some of these people off the page, and even call them mentors, better yet, friends.

There is a lot of dark stuff happening in the world. Lately, sometimes when I turn out the light my heart begins to beat wildly against my ribs and I cannot sleep for all the face-eating, mining exploration, massacres, and legislated denial of a person’s right to love. Haters. I lose my wits. And now this! It is a lot to take. The heart needs regeneration. A vacuum creates new space that longs to be filled. All is an Ocean.

Read that essay. For real, its all in there:

“…Or like the lone female loon who mistook a wet, moonlit interstate for water and crash-landed on the truck-grooved pavement of the fast lane: loon to whom I sprinted, as a convoy of eighteen-wheelers roared toward her, throwing my coat over her head so she wouldn’t stab me, pulling her to my chest as I leapt from the concrete: loon who, when she felt this blind liftoff, let out a full far-northern tremolo that pierced, without stabbing, my coat, ribs, heart, day, life. All is an Ocean, she and Father Zossima and the avian choir keep singing as into black holes in trees, truck routes, river ice, frigid hearts, ecstatic birds keep dropping. Till even alone and in the darkness, with no special hat, clothes or wings to help me fly up and feel it, I find myself caught in the endless act of being loved…”

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