A series of essays delicately evoking nature’s power and mystery.
Poet Mary Oliver provides the epigraph for essayist Rozema’s lyrical debut collection: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Like Oliver—and reminiscent also of Annie Dillard and Gretel Ehrlich—Rozema meditates on wildness, living, and dying; on spirituality, transcendence, and epiphany; and on music, friendship, and longing. The roads he followed traverse the Arizona canyons where he grew up; Seattle, where he landed in 1994, “somewhat lost, or somewhat free,” after his marriage ended; the Cascades in Washington; and the rugged terrain of Alaska, where he lived in his mid-20s. A self-proclaimed “agnostic to the core,” the author recalls that in high school, as a born-again Christian, he feared missing the rapture, “the name believers give to the extraordinary moment in which Christ would sweep his righteous followers up in the twinkling of an eye.” Searching for God, he was “driven to seminary by a kind of thirst,” but he lasted only a year. Disillusioned by the church, Rozema found sacred spaces in nature: on jagged mountain peaks, in the “redemptive wilderness,” on the open road. In a sacred place, the author writes, “I feel—simultaneously—my insignificance in the universe, and my centrality in it.” Spiritual sustenance, peace, and connection often seem elusive. “I would like to enter into the freedom that comes from losing the self,” writes the author. “I would like to be fully present in each moment…freed of regrets about the past and worries about the future.” Besides exploring the geology of land and archaeology of self, Rozema chronicles his father’s loss of memory from Alzheimer’s, which left the former math professor and choirmaster disoriented and bewildered. As he lay dying, the author sat by his bedside singing hymns and recounting family stories, witnessing the mysterious moment of death, when “time and space vanish.”
A brief but impressive debut collection.