I learned last night of the death – the apparent suicide – of one of my
favorite writers, Paul Gruchow. So today when I went to a funeral,
it was for him, too.
Like another person I admired, and miss,
Spalding Gray, he had been
suffering from depression. Somehow I feel their losses personally. I
think, or wish, that I could have done something to make a
difference, to help them avoid their unhappy ends.
I’ve lived alongside depression myself, but I’m not ready to write about
that now. Most of all, I want to remember all of Paul Gruchow, not
just his depression:
I sit on a rock at the edge of the water in the gathering darkness,
staring into the depths of the lake and thinking of something
Thoreau said, when he was perhaps in a similar mood, about Walden
Pond: “A lake,” he said, “is the landscape’s most beautiful and
expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the
beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”
Down the lake a solitary loon cries. The sound is low and
mounrful. It is sometimes mistaken for the howl of a wolf. I think
that the cry might have come from my own heart. When it echoes back
across the water, it also echoes inside me, and the reverberations
do not die away. I shiver, and button my wool shirt, and pull a
jacket over it, but I think it is not the sudden coldness alone
that stirs within me.
In a few months I will be as old as my father was when he died. I
can see him now, looking up at me out of the depths of the lake. He
is smiling. He always wanted to be in a place like this, but he
never found the time or the means to get here. I see that it did
not matter, that he is here now, and always was.
Tonight, I have a session with myself. I look into the eye
of the earth, and I find there myriad things coming forth and
expressing themselves: flowers, poets, fathers, lakes, mountains,
wolves, loons, boulders of granite, both inside my body and out
of it. I have found, after all, the thing I was looking for,
the home-place. It is here, I see, everywhere and inside me,
where it always was.
I rise, go up the hill, and build a fire against the chill and
the darkness. It crackles and spits. Idly I stir a stick in the
coals until it glows, and wave it, writing a neon dance in the
night. I stare absent-mindedly into the blue and orange flames,
hypnotized by them in the ancient way, feeling myself letting go
of my body. My eyelids begin to droop, neither with weariness,
nor with sleepiness, but with peace.– Paul Gruchow, from
Boundary Waters: The Grace of the Wild
On a quiet evening, after the snow, to the sound of lapping water,
I know I’ll see him soon.