Tonight I fly up to Grand Rapids and tomorrow I speak at chapel to the seminarians; in the afternoon we will have a conversation with the seminary faculty about the next generation of students. I look forward to seeing my friends at GRTS.
If you like open space or if you worry about developments — housing or otherwise — gobbling up prairie space, or if you live in the West and are tired of watching great spaces reduced, I have a writer for you. His name is William Kittredge, an earthy, story-telling, essayist from southeastern Oregon. Living in that place is at the heart of his melancholy, which he took with him over to Missoula, Montana, to the University where he taught creative writing for years. The newest collection of his essays is called The Next Rodeo.
It’s not easy to summarize a mood or a style, and Kittredge’s essays are filled with both. Here are some samples, and some of these are taken from an earlier collection called Owning it All. Some essays are found in both volumes.
“Looking backward is one of our main hobbies here in the American West, as we age.”
“This country fosters a kind of woman who never seems to bother about who is she is supposed to be, mainly because there is always work, and getting it done in a level-eyed way is what counts most. … These women wind up looking 50 when they are 37 [and I loved this turn] and 53 when they are 70. It’s as though they wear down to what counts and just last there, fine and staring the devil in the eye every morning.”
A quote from his father: “They’ll never see it [the Bitterroot Valley of Montana] the way we did.” The son ruminates: “I wonder what he saw.”
When he feared a fight might break out in a tavern, someone tells him that “things are going to get real Western here for a minute.”
From someone who seems to know: “Country music, all that worn-out drifter syncopation, turned out to be another lie, a terrific sport but a real thin way of life.”
And if you need to feel some fellow-melancholy about space being filled up with homes and K-Marts, here’s one for you: “Leaning on the tailgate of my Ford pickup, I became aware that this valley, where I had always thought of myself as living, had gone silent in some terrible way.”