Wednesday, March 21, 2018

the last book I ever read (Off to the Side: A Memoir by Jim Harrison, excerpt three)

from Off to the Side: A Memoir by Jim Harrison:

Trauma is trauma but much of the time for a child it can be leavened because there are fewer neurotic reasons to hold on to it. Quite suddenly the left side of my world vanished but the worst was the nearly monthlong stay in the hospital, that long because someone came down with whooping cough or scarlet fever and we were quarantined. It naturally was a children’s ward and a girl with bad burns had died after three days. No one mentioned it to us but a kid with two fractured legs had overheard nurses talking in the night. I think my mother and father spent a lot of time with me but I recall the fear of having both eyes totally covered for a week or so. Even now I can bring back this haunted time by closing my good eye and looking at a big moon on a summer night with my bad, something I would try in the months after the injury. It is a concentrated but foggy light, quite beautiful in its way, and the practice immediately emphasizes the sounds one might hear, nighthawks, coyotes, a whippoorwill, in the spring the eerie call of the loon, the mating call of a woodcock, river sounds. This is an odd habit, looking at the moon with an essentially blind eye. You have the idea you can actually hear color, and between hearing and smell you construct a world that is further decorated by tasting and touching the night air. The odl Ch’an monk Yuan-Wu said a thousand years ago, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”

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