All posts tagged: James Alan Gill

Where I Once Belonged: A Tribute to Kent Haruf

By JAMES ALAN GILL

I studied history in college, because it seemed somehow practical (don’t ask me why), and after three years of study I realized that I was a mediocre historian at best, that what I loved about researching the past were the stories, and so I took a creative writing class.

By sheer luck that class was taught by Kent Haruf. I had no idea of the tradition of great writers who had taught at Southern Illinois University (before Kent, Richard Russo and John Gardner held his faculty position), nor the already strong and growing writing program that was present in 1995 when I was there. I walked into the first day of class like any other, hiding my nervousness with aloofness. I never had the text for any class on the first day.

Where I Once Belonged: A Tribute to Kent Haruf
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Thoreau’s Borderlands

In Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Walking” he writes, “Give me a wildness whose glance no civilization can endure.” It is this longing for wildness that drove Thoreau to live and continue to return to Walden pond; to seek out nature whether along rivers, or the seashore, in the Maine woods, or his home town.

But at times Nature complicates Thoreau’s idealism by presenting raw, untamed forces—true wilderness, rather than just wildness—that stand in stark contrast to the pastoral that he often evokes in his writing.  

Thoreau’s Borderlands
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The Lost Sublime of Cave-In-Rock

By JAMES ALAN GILL

cave

During the late 18th century and early 19th century, citizens of the newly formed United States were “seeking out the land’s scenic marvels, measuring their sublime effects in language, and even staging an informal competition for which site would claim pre-eminence as a scenic emblem of the young nation” (Sayre 141).

The Lost Sublime of Cave-In-Rock
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House by the Railroad

By JAMES ALAN GILL 

Roadroad

The railroad track that ran behind my childhood home–one of several cheaply built ranch houses set on the edge of a small town, pre-approved for FHA loans–seemed a link to everything in the world, the same as every river or creek I passed over on bridges or waded in while fishing, led to bigger water: the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Gulf. Rails led on to other towns, led to St. Louis, which, according to elementary school textbooks, led everywhere west, connected everywhere east.  And I wanted to be close to them.

House by the Railroad
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Pause

By JAMES ALAN GILL

 mountains in mist

 

We met friends north of Seattle, then drove to catch the ferry to Orcas Island and talked about Washington’s bikini baristas.  It would be another three hours before the ferry left, so we walked through cars and trucks parked in lanes straight as garden rows to the snack shop and overpaid for sandwiches, a banana, soda.  You sat on the asphalt behind a Chevy Tahoe, petting a pit bull someone had tied to the trailer hitch, and I took your picture.

Conversation and knowing there was no option but to wait made time pass easily.  When the boat departed, we sat on the observation deck and cruised west into the pale sun and gray gauzy clouds, toward forested islands rising black from the sea.  It was cold.

Pause
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West Eugene Dawn, Summer Solstice

 

The first sound is the gong

Of a dumpster, kicked possibly

By one of the homeless twins

Who live at The Mission, followed

By the rattle of glass and aluminum—

Signs of early success—against the cages

Of their grocery carts filled with cans, bottles,

Anything stamped with 5¢ deposit

Next to our state’s abbreviation.

West Eugene Dawn, Summer Solstice
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21st Century Oregon Trail

There are countless books written on what to do after an extra-marital affair, advice custom built for the betrayed and the betrayer.  I’m not sure if any of them suggest quitting jobs, selling the house, and moving 2500 miles west to Oregon.  But that’s what we did.  A friend who lived there said, “There’s something to be said about traveling across the entire continent, coming to the point where there is no more land, and throwing all of your problems into the Pacific Ocean.  There’s no choice but to start over.”

Neither of our families were supportive.  We did all the packing ourselves and hired a truck to drive our things across country. When the unmarked semi pulled onto our narrow street, three Hispanic men jumped out ready to load everything inside.  Our neighbor, an old woman whose husband—a crusty old fellow named Peck—had died a few months previous, came over and said, “I guess you all are moving then?”

21st Century Oregon Trail
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