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Connection Through Solitude

Howdy friend,

While picking up some readings at Cassiopeia Bookstore, I saw a name on a book that I recognized: Amy Rae Pearson. Amy, the ray of sunshine that sat next to me in a library basement meeting for Wild Montana, wrote a book? I smiled. While our friendship was new, I knew enough about her that whatever she authored, would be sincere, real, emotional. The 54-page collection of poems made up the contents of ‘100 Days of Solitude’; the book cover’s imagery of a classic burning #Montana sunset in the background of the Mt Jumbo fire lookout conveyed that this woman had the opportunity to go where others haven’t, and experience what many crave. I stuffed the book along with the others and made my way to another section. My phone’s appointment reminder cut my shopping day short, and I promised myself I’d make a point to buy Ms. Pearson’s book on my next available book retail therapy day.

My friendship with Ms. Pearson only started a few months ago, and I was eager to learn more about her through her writing. I knew she had experienced divorce, and in the midst of my divorce year, I saw her free and smiling demeanor as inspiring and hopeful. Her existence was proof that there was life after divorce, that one can reconfigure and reconstruct their life with smiles and freedom after a failed fantasy and belief system forcibly disrupted and disorganized that life. 

Not long after, the universe pushed ‘100 Days of Solitude’ my way. I bought a signed copy, and appreciated that kind note the author wrote on the title page. The book is thin, lightweight, but like Ms. Pearson’s height, while it may be small, it is mighty. 

Ms. Pearson was assigned as a fire lookout on Jumbo Mountain in the middle of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex for 98 days in 2015, and it is under these 98 sunrises, sunsets, and moon phases that she lends us her eyes and her heart as she finds comfort amongst the critters. 

Her writing takes advantage of dramatic word spacing and line breaks to guide the reader through her long-form, short-form and haiku poetry. As the summer heats up, as does her writing – much of her most impassioned work takes place in August, sometimes multiple entries in one day.

In this section, we envision the winds and rains of mountainous thunderstorms embody the storm within the author: 

wind - 8/6

as soon as you can't 

take it anymore, 

the wind changes

Followed by the realization that we must get close to the pain in order to get through it is not dissimilar to getting over a mountain by drawing near it:

Logic - 8/6

The logic

that you ought to be 

near something 

to get over it

may be true.

And how many times in the middle of the night for me this year did I sit face to face with Father Time, convincing myself that the grueling slowness of pain and isolation and my own personal wilderness will one day be behind me? While there is no clear demarcation line or timepoint to indicate when one life ended and one began, one thing is certain that one life has ended and some else has been born in the midst of the Oneness:   

a reminder - 8/20

i sometimes 

have to remind myself

i will get off this mountain

this is not

the beginning

or the end 

and yet somehow

it is

One of my own mantras during this past year was a constant reminder to trust the sun and the dynamic aliveness and progression of the day:  ‘Just keep chasing solar events, there’s always two.’ Thus, I connected with Ms. Pearson’s ‘time’:

time - 9/13

i watch day 

settle in to night 

and come around 

again again 

again again

I recommend reading ‘100 Days of Solitude’ for any season, but especially during the seasons when wildfires and storms surround you. 

And when you read her departing entry, I hope that you feel 

inspired and confident, 

That you have your bearspray in hand

That you realize,

an open day IS set out before you, 

only you.

Thank you, Amy, for braving your wilderness, and encouraging all of us to not be afraid to explore our own. 

Here’s to getting near it and through it.



‘100 Years of Solitude’, 

Amy Rae Pearson

Many Voices Press, 2017

Near Great Falls, Montana on March 14? Listen to Amy speak on her book at the Great Falls Public Library. Read more here

1 comentario

Superb writing, Leigh, you really get to it!

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