Jim Harrison passed away at his Arizona home on March 26. His publisher, Grove Atlantic, called the late writer “one of the giants of the last half-century.” He was the author of 39 books of fiction, poetry, and essays, and a Tricycle contributing editor.
There’s a scene in the documentary The Practice of the Wild where Jim Harrison and Gary Snyder are discussing reincarnation. Snyder remarks that reincarnation is “a charming metaphor that means that I have done everything already. I’ve had every possible experience already. I’ve been in every possible form. I’ve been a woman, I’ve been a butterfly, and I’ve been a mosquito.” Moved by this list of possibilities, Harrison pipes up. “A tree,” he says. “I like the idea of being a tree.”
Harrison had a habit of imagining himself as other things. Responding to a request for a poem to publish in Tricycle—a request in which I also complained about the absence of nature in New York City—he wrote me, “Yes, my mind doctor talked about living in New York without the sun, the moon, the forest, and the mountains so I don’t know what to say. I am lucky because I am half-dog.”
While many of his fans and critics wouldn’t argue that point, Harrison clearly wasn’t half-anything. “We want to fully inhabit the earth while we are here,” he wrote in an essay for Tricycle, “and not lose our lives to endless rehearsals and illusions.”
Somewhere in Michigan, Montana, or Arizona a sprouting sapling has some gnarly karma on the way.
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