b. January 6, 1945—d. 25 December 2020


I.                   The boy, I know, will live his life like this, always searching, even though

He doesn’t know what to look for. It will be many years before he understands

That this search for meaning is most everyone’s calling.

      Barry Lopez, “Talismans,” Horizon


After solstice, on Christmas, before your birthday—

My wife, Karen, born four days before you

Places us in time on Star River. I don’t get you written

But I’ll meet you on the River—yours, McKenzie,

Mine, Yakama. Archiving leaves too wet to burn.

A letter to one who’s been given other teachers.

Ones like you, deep reporter, songline.

We travel to hear you in Bend, January 23, 2020,

And first heard of the Plague the following morning coming home.

Coming our way. Listening to you, is what

We’ve been doing, They’re coming for you, be ready,

in and out of range in the meantime.

One of the things in my notebook that night,

Don’t colonize your own experience,

I wanted this opened up,

(So I wouldn’t have to do the work?),

Colonizing being one of the hierarchies.

Koan for slow-man in a car.

The poet Kevin Miller told me you were coming—

Get the tickets. Barry’s reading Horizon

And Marty’s daughter gives him a copy,

Shows me your preface at Pearl Harbor.

I’m reading the library copy and the eBook

When Barry—your tocayo—Grimes, poet, friend,

Working on a family piece as deep

As Hemingway’s iceberg, comes by with his Horizon

And we look at the endsheets of blue sky,

Blue mountain hermitage, Himalayas,

Horse and rider. Signing books, (I held six),

Don’t colonize your own experience,

(Knew I didn’t have enough), I mention

Endsheet beauty. Look, you say,

Opening the book from the back,

Dust cover in place—a woman wrote me

On the back of this post card—I saved it

Not knowing it would be this book—but look,

You said, pointing at your photo on the jacket

Upper right, and the horse and rider, lower left,

How it brings the two together as one.


II. For that alone you would walk across Australia

            Barry Lopez, The Search for Meaning in a Broken World

            The Cultural Conservancy, Point Reyes, 7 May 2019


You’re talking about navigators with Melissa Nelson,

Framing two, James Cook and Ranald MacDonald.

Oceans between them. Complex, like a novel.

Liminal, bifurcated. Meztizaje. I’m listening walking

Perimeters in a housing development with headphones,

Ice on sidewalks taking notes and talking out loud.

My wife looks up from her sewing machine

When I come through the door. She quilts.

This morning, we watch on YouTube

In the living room, three days after your crossing

Christmas Day. You say, Make common cause

With young people, help them find language they deserve…

And the shaping, what you can do to help.

You’re listening to Lillian Pitt, standing

with her, at Oregon book awards, when she says,

I am a project of my people.

Karen says, Stop the video. That’s how I feel about myself.

About my quilts, Karen says.

I didn’t make them. They came through me.

That morning on the day you die, we make masked ceremony

Karen hands her six grand children quilts

As different and varied as their imaginations.

Colors, yes. And threads appearing even as they disappear,

Off path assistance in their shaping.


III. The Burrup Peninsula, many academics maintain, was once the geographic center of the greatest array of rock art ever created. Thousands upon thousands of depictions of animals, of humans interacting, of spiritual drama and historical events once existed here. It was a Musée d’Orsay of petroglyphs and pictographs.

     Barry Lopez, “Port Arthur to Botany Bay,” Horizon


A week before your 76th birthday,

Picking up Horizon covered in blues

Of ocean and sky, slowed immediately

By what I must bring to the page.

Before I can catch up I must slow down.

I’m not going slow enough.

Read each word in each sentence.

Stop at the end of the period

And sift through words.

Where has the sentence taken me?

Read the sentence again, slower.

Lopez counting railroad cars carrying iron ore in Australia.

Aborigines alongside the tracks.

Home for 30,000 years.

Asking readers to imagine Jerusalem

Pulverized into dust

In order to build dormitories on the moon.

I am reading Cervantes’s Don Quijote de la Mancha,

Finishing Book One on Winter Solstice

After 90-some days of reading.

Three durable paperback texts before me,

Edición de Florencio Sevilla Arroyo, @2002,

Translations by Edith Grossman and John Rutherford.

In addition, Diccionario Clave alongside online dictionaries

For vocabulary and etymology.

My Spanish a piece of work over sixty years.

When I’m disciplined, at my best,

I can read ten pages per day.


How I read Horizon.

This is my approach, Barry Lopez.

Reading slower. Fully present.


Lopez standing back, before mankind.

These were the first creatures to shimmer with intentionality.




      [ ONE STAND-ALONE: …and plain meals—a female geologist, whose

      Patience I had apparently tried, took me aside to inform me that I was

      Inexcusably confused about the difference between a stone and a rock.

      The terms are not interchangeable, she said. A stone was a rock that

      had been put to some utilitarian or cultural use by a human being. Thus

      a headstone, a paving stone, a cornerstone, and Stonehenge. A rock

      was something that had not been handled by a human being…In the

      years following, I myself was able to annoy a number of people by

      requesting that the distinction be observed.

          Barry Lopez, Graves Nunataks to Port Famine Road, Horizon.]




IV. Without room for mystery and uncertainty, the Aboriginal man felt,

       there cannot be any truly intelligent conversation.

       Barry Lopez, “Port Arthur to Botany Bay,” Horizon.



Last week this letter would have been different.

Winter solstice and the Navajo. Blessingway

And the return to Beauty. Hozho.

The one who is sung over.

Deteriorization is natural and happens to us all.

Sing the individual beautiful once more. Hozho.

Because we have just returned from the Southwest

In the Mothership, camping, reading poems with local poets,

My wife quilting with quilters, stopping in pueblos,

A woman reads to me Lyla June Johnston’s poem, Hozhó.

Show me something not beautiful, her grandmother says,

And I will show you the veil over your eyes.

It comes to you again walking Alexander Lowland

On Skraeling Island. Longing for conversation

With the disappeared. That kind of search.

I meet you on return, Barry Lopez,

You on Skraeling Island remembering Frank Mitchell.

You send me to faraway libraries, interlibrary loans.

The Autobiography of Frank Mitchell,

A lifetime of how many people remembering.

This medicine arrives in my mailbox.


V. On those nights I might try to force the ramulose arrangement of these convoluted branches and twigs into the as-yet-unsettled pattern of human evolution. The trunk of the tree represents the kingdom Animalia. Where major limbs branch off into various phyla, I follow the one that represents chordates, the animals with backbones, and from these the branch representing the class Mammalia, the mammals.          Barry Lopez, “Jackal Camp,” Horizon, p 293.


The morning after your conversation, returning home,

I’m driving, and hit the dog crossing the highway.

A direct hit. I know what just took place.


Turning North at Madras on 97

After breakfast with Kevin and Cammie,

The semi up the hill, four lanes,

Passing the truck, the small dog escaping big wheels,

Finding our sedan. I feel what I can’t see.

The small dog’s body under my foot.


Has the caretaker done the forgiveness work for us both?




There are wild animals in the world that are not free…the gorillas…

        Barry Lopez, The Search for Meaning in a Broken World

        Point Reyes, 7 May 2019


      Everything is held together by stories. That is all that is holding us together,

      Stories and compassion.

              Barry Lopez, Bend, Oregon, 23 January 2019   


Kevin calls his poems, Vanish.

They’re coming for you, Ranald MacDonald says,

You have to learn English. You must be ready

Because they’re coming. You sign a book

For Vance Thompson’s Image on cover of Vanish.

A Photographer on our hikes, his campfire talks

Begin with your caution to do least harm,

And from there, someone will mention photographs

Flying from your motorcycle and your vow

To do that one whatever thing, with devotion.

Marty makes shields of balsam wood and tissue paper.


From my notebook last January, Kevin on my left,

You are finer than silent defiance advancing,[i]

Hair long, grandfather of our time.

Blue jeans, blue vest, sweater.

Magnificent brown boots—also a child,

Looking at the Chris Craft off shore,

My God! That’s the man who wrote the Red Pony!

One caution for the listeners thrown in:

Don’t colonize your own past.

A child again:

He was elegant. He dated my Mom. I wanted him to be my Dad.


How all the hierarchies threaten, and the slow absorption.

Everyone’s been driven to their knees,

You know, if you’ve been paying attention.

When you bring up Frank Mitchell, it’s the third time.

Hozhó, Horizon, Lyla June Johnston’s poem, Blessingway, tonight.

I sit up in the chair, nudge Kevin, Here it comes…

The deeper meaning of beauty,

At the point of disintegration, constant,

To re-enter, and live in beauty,

To be in beauty and remain.


You want to be the reader’s companion, not his authority,

Touch on writing while talking of love—someone

Has loved the ones who write well,

There are things one can’t teach—

I can’t teach you discipline.

I can’t teach you hunger.

Asking us—without really asking—to think about

Emotions in an intelligent way.


A few things about my read of Horizon.

Blessingway, restoration. I’m on my way

To visit Frank Mitchell’s grave in the cemetery in Chinle.

You’re one of the navigators, Barry Lopez.

I had Cook, but didn’t have Ranald MacDonald.

Let me off the boat near Japan.

I need to tell them, They’re coming for you.

No application for this work that I know.

Long apprenticeship.

It’s hard to write about yourself, as you say.

A word about ramulose, having many small branches,

Ramular. I missed it a year ago.

and missed the Latin once I got there.

Ramulose—having many small branches,

I’ve looked it up before, one of your words, from two different places.

And I needed it then, surround myself in branches.

Tantas ramas. So many.

And there it is in the text: Counterpoint

To Cook: …whom I think more about today,

The poorly recollected and uncelebrated

Ranald MacDonald, a man born into two cultures,

In neither one of which did he ever feel truly comfortable.

Barry picks up the encounter

with the man on the bridge.

And the beaver sticks.

Where one goes when one is stuck.

Where it’s worse than that.

Beaver sticks in the Medicine Bag.

A horizon too wide to see without community.


We’re on that return run, all of us.

Star River Preservation, and already

The people are setting out preserving

Archival memories of trees and recorded DNA.

Drafts of all your loosening breaths.


Jim Bodeen

From the Notebooks, January, 2019—31 December, 2020

[i] Walt Whitman, “Whitman’s Preface” Leaves of Grass, 1855 edition, Intro by Harold Bloom. P. 14.

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