A candid but polished sojourn into solitude and memory.
Late in 2000, poet and essayist Daniel (Winter Creek, 2002, etc.) took himself deep into the backcountry of Oregon for a few months of solitude, to a cabin without electricity or neighbors, tucked into a canyon with forested slopes. The Rogue River slid by within earshot, and there was a meadow to watch the comings and goings of wildlife. Daniel was there to see how he might grow, what he might learn, from the quietude, but he got distracted. The memory of his father, Franz Daniel, was a prime diversion and puzzle. Franz was an intellectual with rural roots, a union organizer of uncommon zeal and charisma, drawn to the ministry but more so to applied religion, social justice, decency—and the bottle. As Daniel goes about his distracted way—dueling with the turkey that’s eating his garden goods, tendering a theory of grouse (they know when a human in their midst has a gun), reveling in the visit of a bobcat, coming to “love the little particularities of things, their jags and curves and rough or silky textures, the exactly this that they present”—he quarries his father’s life, finding in it an enormous, nurturing good, even while the house he grew up in was one of drunkenness and anger. Then, too, his own life beckons, urging him to quit the fretting, “do what you're doing,” live the moment. Still, he’ll look long and hard at the path that has brought him to this juncture, his own strong and weak suits—the question of courage in all its ambiguity won’t go begging in these pages—that brought into being whatever resources of attention and creative association he now possesses.
Daniel’s time alone is potent, a dilation on the amusements and scorchings of the simple life, and a distillation of the strange, human group that was his family.