I have been reading another one of my dad's Top Ten Favorite Books, the one referenced above. It's a "Nature/Travel" book, published in 1978, one of the few years during which my dad owned and operated his own "Mark Twain Bookstore" in downtown Jefferson City, Missouri. I would like to know if these years of being a business owner were his happiest, having realized his dream of having his own bookstore and being able to talk about books for a living.
I didn't know it at the time, as I was only nine years-old, but looking back I see that these years were financially difficult. We were a family of five living in a two bedroom apartment, we did our laundry at the laundry mat, there was never a spare quarter for a kid wanting a candy bar and a $5.00 bounced check fee brought my mother to tears. But, I would really like to know, if despite these skinny means, was he was happy? The simplest questions we fail to ask our loved ones. I live in the blasted digital age but never sat my dad down with a camcorder or even a fucking tape recorder and interviewed him about his life. I vaguely meant too, and believe me, I will do this with my mom when I see her in a few weeks, but for my dad, I am too fucking late.
The Snow Leopard is about the author's hiking journey with a field biologist to Crystal Mountain in the Himalayas. The author weaves into this story his meditations on Zen Buddhism and remembrances of his wife who had recently died from cancer. Yes, cancer just keeps coming up in nearly every book I read lately. I feel like it is an omen but what can I do?
I am maybe a third of the way into this book. Matthiesen and his field biologist friend have the luxury of sherpas and porters to lug all their supplies, so there is a bit of a struggle on my part to overcome my resentment of such things. I do love Matthisen's detailed descriptions of the villages he encounters, the landscape and all the life that dwells therein. His descriptions made me so visually hungry for these mountains that I did a search on Netflix for every documentary on Nepal, Tibet, and the Himalayas and put them in my queue.
I just finished watching a feature length documentary called Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion, which chronicles Tibet's recent horrors. It is strange to think that Mao Zedong began to assert a new Chinese presence in Tibet in 1950, the same year Kerouac struggled to write a workable draft of On the Road, the same year my dad was eight years-old, playing cowboys and Indians with his cousin Ray on the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois.
Mostly I feel as if I am not grieving the loss of my father. Perhaps I am in denial. Perhaps I am being too stoic. Perhaps I have an instinct that informs me that our separation is only temporary.
I saw an old man at a music festival this weekend, limping and pushing a cooler on wheels. Attached to the cooler was a cardboard sign that read, "Atheist" in large, blue handwriting. I interpreted the sign as meaning, "Don't talk to me unless you're up for an atheist sermon." I wasn't so I didn't.