Flicking through photocopied pages, and pausing, and then taking a deep breath. And then again, turning over to a new page allowing yourself time to absorb the sentiments, before carefully moving on, slowing down time around you to let the new ideas settle.
How had this happened? Well, imagine if you were in New York City on vacation and you didn’t know shit about it or the surrounding area. Imagine also that not only did you not speak any English, you spoke a language comprising totally unfamiliar symbols altogether so that everything in your range of hearing and line of vision was both confusing and fatiguing. Then imagine you had a plan to make a side trip, the details of which you hadn’t yet attended to, because you weren’t the sort of person who always attends to things.
Then let’s say, finally trying to attend to things, you told one New York City resident, “I’m going to Upstate New York! (Which you thought of as ONE PLACE) How should I get there?” And, for some reason, this person said with total certainty, “Oh, you’re going to take Metro North to Cold Spring!” Then imagine the exact same conversation took place with a totally different New York City resident a few hours later, and you thought you had the right information, because why would two people tell you the same thing if it weren’t true?
When you live in the West, you come to expect the big skies. You learn to navigate by the epic weight of mountains crowding the horizon. You know the snapping sharp transition between the close embrace of the woods and the openness of the high mountain clearing. Even in the cities, you live with the land close by — never being allowed to forget that you are in a wild place that will never be truly settled. In the East, nature is allowed to exist by man in controlled, manageable pockets, ever shrinking. In the West, nature allows you to exist. Or doesn't, according to its whims. And anyone who forgets that is a fool.
Of the three things I love most about Laura Anne Gilman's Devil's West series, her deep understanding of this sharp division of dominion on either side of the Mississippi is my second favorite. My first is petty (and we'll get to it shortly). And my third is the dirt under its nails.
“Kadian Journal” is the moving, anguished and ultimately healing account of Harding’s efforts to come to terms with the unspeakably tragic loss of his beloved son and to pay him tribute. It describes Harding’s quest to unravel the mystery of his son’s fatal accident, complete with a police investigation, forensic experts and an inquest, and to grapple with his own guilt and responsibility, or lack thereof.
Mary Ruefle’s “My Private Property” is a book that, if not read carefully and to its very last words, almost invites the reader to underestimate it.