Quotes from Harrison's 'Returning to Earth'

It was good to finally know that the spirit was everywhere rather than a separate thing. … Clare fed our leftover sandwiches to a stray mutt, who didn’t chew the proper thirty-two times. … All of my jobs had kept me grounded in actual life whereas simply sitting in my room with my studies tended to make me unstable. … In New York City the endless blocks of huge buildings say to us, I’m serious and within me serious people are doing serious things even though five thousand people in a building might only be playing with the market edge. … There’s a local euphemism in the U.P. that you’re not lost, you just can’t find your vehicle. … A local politician rejecting foreign languages in a school budget had said, ‘If English was good enough for Jesus Christ it’s good enough for our kids.’ … I agreed with K on the addition of what is called a ‘space blanket’ to the survival kits I put together and distribute for Mexicans intending to migrate north. Space blankets are sheets of material used by campers to protect them from cold and dampness but I thought they could also defend against the summer heat of the ground, which reaches over one hundred and fifty degrees. ..The packet was in a Velcro latched bag and could be attached to a waiste belt and weighed a little less than five pounds. I distributed these free of charge to workers’ groups and through left-leaning Catholic priests. I was opposed by many on both sides of the border for political reasons, which didn’t bother me except for the legal expenses I incurred avoiding prosecution by the United States. My raison d’etre was simple on the surface. Estimates of crossing deaths along the entire nineteen-hundred-mile border with Mexico went as high as two thousand a year. I had learned to be goofy rather than logically argumentative with my opponents. I’d ask, If you could prevent twenty major airline disasters each year, wouldn’t you? … By common consent we didn’t talk about anything more serious than the food and music, which in themselves have become more serious as I get older. … He needed Montana but he also needed Chicago for her museums, libraries, theaters, bookstores, and most of all classical music, which he preferred to hear live. … After a passing glance I averted my eyes from a photo of Carla and me at the cabin and then I fixed on it. Was I ever that young? … There are no damaged goods when everyone is damaged goods. … The best thing about travel, though, is that it’s difficult to be consumed by the past against the backdrop of a fresh landscape. … ‘I was sorry to hear about Donald. There was a man who could put in a day’s work.’ I shook his hand as he offered this ultimate compliment of the north. His hand felt like a semipetrified baseball mitt. ‘You might not remember me. Donny and me played football way back when, then worked together. The name’s Teddy.’ He bowed, his face reddening, and walked away.

‘You were the left tackle,’ I called out and he turned and grinned. … On all levels the main reason to live is because you’re already alive. … While we were out on the park bench a small bank of clouds came across the sun turning our mood somber. He said, ‘After all, the fact of death is the most brutal thing we humans are forced to accept,’ but then the sun came out again and I told him that the day after the burial Herald had said, ‘Mother, it can’t be awful if it happens to every living thing.’

Jim Harrison –Returning to Earth

Buy Jim Harrison’s True North here and Returning to Earth here.

Ryan McCarl
Attorney | Writer | Educator