Another fine warm day. We walked down an old family favorite wash in the desert locally known as "the slots". A beautiful geologic formation where water periodically grinds the mud and stone down the narrow rock walls of the canyon so that over the years there has become a very slender pathway to squeeze through on the bottom.
This morning my family... including friends of such closeness they might as well be family... tumbled down the path chattering like a bunch of magpies. I squeezed through the narrow spots with a little more difficulty than I have in the years before and labored up the hill with more effort, confirming that my body does not change at geologic rate.
I'm sixty years old now. I first started coming to this desert when I was six years old. My parents loved it here with intensity. They tried living here year round but the summer heat and the expense of it beat them back. I was only here once in June and I thought someone was kidding me when I stepped out of the air conditioned car: Blast Furnace on a reflective surface. It was an earth not meant for humans.... but of course it was, just not me.
Someone asked me about Cold Storage, today and why it was dedicated to Sophie Rosen. Well... Sophie is a fan of my books who wrote to me after I published The Big Both Ways. She was at that time a Librarian in British Columbia and she is a very perceptive and sympathetic reader. Her criticisms were always on point but kindly put, very bookish, and learned in a very sweet and generous way. She is wonderful to correspond with. I have only met her once and I don't really know much about her personal life. We have almost always discussed books when we communicate, not always mine, but books we like.
I asked Sophie to read an early draft of Cold Storage, Alaska and she commented on the number of biblical allusions there were in the novel. To which I learnedly responded, "huh?" Then she asked, "Would you mind if I pointed some of them out?" and this time I responded, "Not at all." This was how I became reacquainted with the Book of Numbers and the story of Baalam's Ass, who only speaks to his master before being kicked for the third time.
I had studied the Bible as Literature with Nelson Bentley at the University of Washington in the seventies, and Nelson was a generous and lively soul. Nelson's first rule in his poetry group was, "Avoid Self Pity Like The Plague!" and I suspect he saved the life of many young poets. I know he did mine. I still keep a Bible on my desk.
Sophie Rosen is a generous Christian woman. I can tell this from her tone and from her generous nature and from a few of the things she has said. Never has she proselytized. Once as we were talking about Scripture I mentioned that I had problems in the Bible between the two aspects of Scriptures, "I'm good," I told her, "with the love part, but I'm not so good with the obedience."
And Sophie chuckled. "What are you laughing about?" I asked. "It's just funny," she said. I wrote the book and years later I realized what she thought was funny.
So, if you are reading my new book and are wondering about my relationship with Christianity or Buddhism or any other organized religion. I will try and express it here: I'm a student of Literature and not an advocate of faith. I love people I meet and communicate with. I love Sophie Rosen, I love the pieces of ground within the context of my own short round feet. I'm the fat guy walking in the slots. I am a writer who does not walk among the Gods. I am the writer who walks with the un-kissed frogs: pursing my lips.