Well, my friends, Joseph has been put to bed. This has certainly qualified as the proverbial “long, strange trip.” But, as with all books, there is a feeling of deep accomplishment and excitement when the final product finally begins to take form. I think it was Leonardo DaVinci who said that the longevity of any creature is a direct function of its gestation period. If that’s the case, this Joseph book (which, we now believe, will probably be called just Chief Joseph)should live for a long time.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the project has been the rare experience of spending three years in an imaginative realm that has transported me to a different time and place. By the second year the places in my mind were as real as the places in my life. By the third year, I could disappear entirely into different landscapes and events, like Alice going down a rabbit hole.
Think of it this way: on the day you return from a vacation you are about equally present to your home life and the life of the place you have just left. With each day, the power of the memory of the vacation recedes. Now, imagine a situation where the power of that memory remains equally vivid and loses its transience. It sits there, like a different room in the mansion of your imagination, able to be entered at will. When such a place is the broad, high plains west, you are lucky, indeed. And I have been lucky.
So now what?
There has been something lyrical but hard-edged and spiritually bleak about this project. The journey of the Nez Perce and Joseph was a tragic descent into exile and virtual hopelessness. To the extent that I participated in their story, I, too, entered into a spiritual diaspora. Now it is time to come back to the present, reinvigorate my spirit, and open to the power of the daily world around me.
While I am in England I will try to look with clear, spiritually aware eyes on the world around me. Traveling with young university students is invigorating and rejuvenating because of the emotional immediacy of their lives. That, plus the palpable clarity and civility of Oxford, should wake me in ways I cannot even imagine. It is a long way from the dusty distances of the high Montana plains to the green courtyards of Oxford, and that is the journey my mind and spirit are about to make.
I should be able to write more frequently now that my mind and time are more languid.
Keep in touch. I always enjoy hearing from you.