Fiction as we know it now captures, in my humble opinion, something that is essentially human, a primordial need to tell tales, to explain the world into words. A true story is a precious thing, a made-up one pure magic. There are tales with atavistic resonance, forgettable ones, tales of power, stories one hates and stories one carries within forever; sentences that make your spine tingle and sutras you want to memorize. They can be given as gifts, passed on for generations, treasured and held and released.
Some of the most significant folks in my life have been lovers of books, who have gifted me with titles, physical objects, and unknown authors. One such person, a young world wonderer I was madly in love with, once gifted me with a copy of his favorite book The Dharma Bums.
Sceptical at first, I was not so much won over by Kerouac's haphazard writing style, than the character of Japhy Ryder, a Zen wonderer extraordinaire. Delighted to discover that he had a real-life equivalent in the poet Gary Snyder, whose works I soon began to devour. Over the years Snyder's poetry and essays, violent and gentle, in turns, changed something within me, or perhaps just helped me to discover something I had carried with me all along.
I discovered not only Zen Buddhism, but also a more seamless way to weave my being into this world, to try to be harmonious, less quarrel-some, and even happy.
In the great co-incidental way that things sometimes work, I was lugging both the Dharma Bums, as well as He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village in my bag today, when one of my dearest book-nerd friends pointed out that it was the man's 80th birthday, this very day!
So here's looking at you, old Japhy Ryder, Han Shan of Cascadia. May your travels be interesting for many years to come. May your mind wonder freely. Thank you for all of your beautiful gifts. I will think of you in small towns, mountains and dusty roadsides. (And you too, sometimes, Shaun.)
(That there is Sourdough Mountain.)
Peace and love and beautiful books.