- Selections from An Act of Disobedience
The Writing of Travel—The Travel of Writing
…as he that takes away a garment in cold weather.—Proverbs 25:20
Several years ago I drove from St. George, Utah to Kansas City in 18 hours through snow rising in Utah and on the summit of the Rockies where traffic was stopped because of an accident. Start into it again—Once I was in the Rockies in the snow. The trucks traveled with lights on their foreheads. There are visions in blowing snow when you are pushed into yourself. All the journeys through the snow return when one is snow-blinded, or worked-with-snow that drifts into the head, and you can’t see for the blowing snow, and you can’t clear out your head until you think, and in thinking you thought you saw something approaching—a bear or horse or another truck with lights on its forehead.
You bear your visions in cold, which could tear your fingers off and blacken your toes. You wish for comfort. You wish not to be cold. But you are walking with those who walked through the snow, though you are stopped in a line of traffic as far as you can see on I-70 through the Rockies on an incline and the snow is beautiful if only you weren’t stuck in it. Or those crowding around you. Or those broken down or just broken in their circumstances and over it you hear the earth and maybe the whole sky crying because it is lost, and the snow is grieving that you receive on your windshield. You use the wipers to push it aside and a residue of road dirt. Now smudge moves over [End Page 95] your windshield trying to obscure your vision or even part of your vision to make it more difficult. It waits to pounce on you with its heavy weight because you are traveling alone as you always do because no one wants to go with you where you go. Or you don’t want them to go. It is better to travel alone. You don’t have to listen to anyone but the past that speaks in the silent snow.
You hear the hum of motors wanting to go. Or people wondering what to do in their cars. Will they run out of gas? Or will the children stop fighting? And maybe soon the traffic will be moving through the mountains built for snow more than the straight plains where it blows over the road, and even all the snow fences in Wyoming to the north can’t hold it back. But the mountains are the snow fences that hold the snow and cope with it when they know it is the cryings of the sky that have fallen, and they hoard it all to themselves for people to drive through and have accidents in because they don’t watch the road or they take risks that end in accidents. How many of them involve people that themselves are smeared?
The book of Hosea and all those dismal prophets are a drive through the mountains. Hosea 13:7—like a leopard by the way I will observe them. It comes to me as a vision, the cold. A leopard. Eyes of fire. Teeth of ice. A snow leopard sitting on the mountain. The spirit over our land.
You see the shadow of the mountains as if they were men.—Judges 9:36
And where do stories come from after all? What vast plain the imagination? Out of desperation? Out of wishing for something other than what is available? A fleeing from the past griefs? And the present ones. A struggle to show chaos that language is chief? What is it in the old Indian wars that covered the tribes even before the coming of the European? Not the words but the meaning underneath that can’t be gotten to, but only pointed the way. The fears and longings and solutions.
They bear a likeness of existence. The nothingness that waits on each side of the road like the huge California desert, even in...