With America at My Back

Back at the ocean to finish Lone Dog Road.

Books take a lot of polishing. You don’t want to “sand the edges” off them, but you want continuity and clarity. Sometimes that is a long time in coming. And so I have come back here to the vast Pacific to see if I can inject some magic and flow into the words and phrases of this book that has been my companion and obsession for the past two years.

People ask me why I’m so drawn to this place. It’s partly for the sunrises and the sunsets, and partly for the dull amniotic roar that fills the senses and never ceases. But it’s also for the impossible-to-explain feeling that all of America, both physically and metaphorically, is behind me. Here, 100 feet from the eternal breathing of the planet, all the fighting, all the thrumming machinery of human progress, all the sick politics and hopeless mix of human suffering and dreams, falls away. I can turn my back on the world and stare off into the infinite.

In daily life this seems like a betrayal of my human responsibility. But here, at the very western margin of the continent, it feels not only natural, but undeniable. I am as carefree and full of wonder as the dogs I see running along the beach.

My wife often says, “You think too much,” a legacy of my too intelligent, too depressed mother sitting at the kitchen table smoking cigarettes and staring into the middle distance. But there is healthy thinking and there is not-so-healthy thinking. And thinking about the junk and jangle of daily life can be not-so-healthy thinking when you are trying to enter into the magical, untethered world of the imagination.

At water’s edge the imagination can run free. God, eternity, the magic of music, the mysteries of birth and death, love, the whispering voices of the ancestors – nothing is off limits. If you want to think about bills and doctor’s visits and the problems of the world, you can. But if you want to stand against those daily concerns, the vast infinity of the rolling ocean can give you the power to do so.

I am using that power right now. America is at my back; infinite possibility stretches out before me. I hope I am producing a good book for all of you. I think I am.

My inspiration is the rolling Pacific and dogs running happily along the beach. If there is a better combination to clarify the mind and lift the spirit, I don’t know what it is.

19 thoughts on “With America at My Back”

  1. Douglas O’Neill

    What is wrong with being inspired by the infinite. The mind needs to wonder, like dog on the beach and go where it needs to visit. This is a freedom that so far is not regulated by any power so enjoy. I wish you the best.

  2. Yes. I think you are a bit south of me, but I know the feelings you describe. I have lived with the continent at my back since 1966. I hope to die here, too. I am very much looking forward to “Lone Dog Road.”

  3. What Corrine wrote. What Douglas comments upon….and…
    More than one eye doctor has commented that we of a certain age need to make sure we are exercising our eyes. The Colorado example was given: “when you hike, look both at the mountains and the pinecone in your hand. Mountains. Pinecone.” She wasn’t trying to be poetic, but yes! That’s one way to strengthen our vision – look up close and look away. And repeat.
    I so appreciate that you also note the sense of freedom from choosing our soundscape: “the dull amniotic roar…”
    You, poet, you. No rush…but get it published!

  4. Hello Kent! Can’t wait to read the book. A friend of mine once told me to remember two words when looking for a place to live – “salt water”. Enjoy and keep us informed !

  5. Still following you and your thoughtful insightful inspiring writing.
    I too am waiting on your Lone Dog Road. You have indeed selected a perfect place in which to do finish it.

  6. No better way to clear your mind and soul, and get back to something worthwhile. So soothing! Thank you for what you do to make the rest of us understand humanity on different levels.

  7. We are at your back Kent, in thoughtful prayer and word.

    Great Spirit is telling us a story through you, we need to hear.

    You know the feeling when you’ve said something as it needs to be.

    It is a struggle of what we may want to say v what may need to be said.

    Lone Dog is very symbolic of our life journey. Ultimately, we are all alone.

    Nothing Lasts Forever, only Sun, Moon, Earth and Sky we remain in spirit.

    And can return to Great Spirit doing what He asks of us in caring for others.

    There is a universal timing, like giving birth. You know to be ready, scary as it is.

    But when it gets rough, please remember we are at your back, Kent.

    You open the door of our hearts and minds to Great Spirit and His People.

    They will invite us to the World Dance when the time comes because of you.

    Mitakuye Oyasin


    Wakan Takan kici un
    May the Creator/Grandfather/Great Spirit/God bless you.

    And everyone who has ears to hear, a heart to feel, and mind to understand.

  8. Kent, if the book reads like this blog, it’ll be just what many of us need: a meditation on purposeful engagement and on finding peace in a world that feels like it’s coming unhinged.

  9. I’ve been one of the very few lucky ones who has read a draft of Kent’s new book — and it is simply one of the finest novels I’ve ever read. Ever. And I’ve read a LOT of novels. I can’t wait to see it published and reaching a lot of people.

    Your trilogy beginning with NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG is a major part of your legacy, but I’m sure LONE DOG ROAD will add substantially to your wonderful body of work that will live on for a long, long time.

  10. The cacophony of sounds along the ocean’s shore is the perfect respite to enjoy “sacred idleness” or, in your case, sacred purpose. Can’t wait for your final effort!

  11. Kent I am at Midwesterner currently on the beach in Puerto Rico with my daughter‘s family. I know exactly what you mean by the constant hypnotic sound of the breaking waves. It takes me to a much better place.

  12. Catherine Stenzel

    No worries about time, Mr. Nerburn. It doesn’t exist anyway – just a human concept. But you know that. after publishing 5 in as many years, I am now finishing a book that is entering its eighth creation year, and every day has been worth it.
    Thanks for taking your time. // A partner outside of time

  13. I am just finishing the second book of your trilogy, this is the third reading. I cannot wait for your new book to be published. It is funny my mind works like yours, but it wanders in the early years of mans civilization. always in Sinai and the lands between the two great rivers of Mesopotamia. My family could never understand me and my parents told me to go and learn to cook rather that look at relics in museums. Have had a very interesting life looking at “old things”,

    Anne Murray
    North Yorkshire. UK

  14. Lone Dog Road, my new novel (which I really love) is getting its final editing touches. I think the publisher is planning on a spring launch. Soon I’m going to get my act together and start writing about it either directly on facebook and my blog page, or in a special page set up for the book. I may also post excerpts. I’m just so damn technologically limited. Stay tuned. And thanks for asking, Gary.

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