There was a simple pine box in my father’s office desk. The box, like the entire drawer, smelled from a small bag of pipe tobacco he kept there with a couple of used corncob pipes, cream rims brown from smoke. His other pipes, those of fine woods but not his favorites, hung from a metal rack on top of his desk.
His box contained a small, soft leather pouch the size of a plum, a few handwritten notes, a Saint Michael protection card printed with gold-ink, a tiny, faded photograph of his mother and a couple clip-on pins given in recognition of his community service. The pouch held a stone fox, the color of iron, with a piece of turquoise tied on its neck with a slim leather strip. A note inside the pouch read, “Thank you, from the people of the Navajo Nation.” I found these things after he died.
By opening his desk, I learned that he, like I, had a secret place for talismans, superstitions.
It was strange to find this stone fox because a month earlier, I’d given him a small, stone grizzly, about the same size, also tarnished iron, also from a Navajo artist. I bought it at a roadside shop in Southern Utah because it reminded me of him. Thick and strong bodied, it had a long nose, a slightly tilted listening head, warm turquoise eyes. The grizzly fit perfectly in my palm. I could wrap my fingers around it, heat it up, fill it with life.
I placed it on my dad’s nightstand where it stayed while he died.
For fifteen years, I've kept the grizzly by my bed, wherever I sleep, wherever I go. When I’m most afraid, I clutch him in my hand.
Perhaps because of the times we are living in, the ennui that has set in, the deep sadness I can’t shake, perhaps because all the suffering in the world hovers in the atmosphere like pollution, for whatever reason, my grizzly has materialized.
He lumbers around my apartment, smells of sweet pipe tobacco. Mostly though, he cuddles into the couch pillows, sniffs the ocean air. Sunflower-colored seagulls, lizard dayglo green crows and persimmon and pomegranate songbirds have been attracted to him. And with them, pink and purple petunia-colored butterflies.
I have felt the long arm of time reaching around the earth's curve into darkness. Silence is heavy. The kindness of strangers is gone.
Come here, sweet bear. Rest your head on my knee, your velvet nose shortening the distance to the horizon. Let us wait for a songbird to sing, a butterfly to whisper to the wind as fragile wings open and close, open and close, open and close and we will find peace.
Not really a Biography
I have always been inclined to move forward, roll the stone, down, and often up, hills. I've tried to write through it all. Everything on this blog is written by me.