Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006. [In the following essay, Barillas explores the connections between nature, place, and community in Harrison's oeuvre, analyzing Dalva as "an experiment in soul-making" and suggesting that The Road Home, with its theme of healing old wounds, is Harrison's most ambitious work.] Nature must be viewed humanly to be viewed at all; that is, her scenes must be associated with humane affections, such as are associated with one's native place. -Henry David Thoreau, Journals One important heir to the pastoral tradition of Cather, Leopold, Roethke, and Wright is Jim Harrison, poet, novelist, and essayist. Born in 1937, Harrison spent his childhood on a farm in northern Michigan, a region where he has lived most of his life and where much of his writing is set. As a boy, Harrison spent hours, often at night, exploring wild areas such as "a particular spot favored for a big moon-a grove of white birches where deer wandered" and where he could observe blue herons and visit an Indian burial mound (Just before Dark, 280). Such walks helped him cope with the vicissitudes of life: "a severe eye injury causing blindness [in one eye] at age seven . . . the deaths of my father and nineteen-year-old sister in an [auto] accident when I was twenty-one," and "a cycle of predictably severe depressions, beginning at age fourteen" (Just before Dark, 310). These circumstances shaped his development as a writer. Predominantly rural in focus, Harrison's writing is strongly personal and idiosyncratic. His poems and essays amount to an ongoing autobiography, and his pastoral fiction depicts protagonists whose midwestern origins and spiritual quest resemble his own. Harrison has synthesized the concerns of his regional predecessors; themes of grief and the consoling beauty of nature, resistance to the dominant utilitarianism of American society, and historical understandings of place all lend coherence and continuity to the extensive body of this author's work. Although best known as a novelist, Harrison established his reputation with two books of poetry, Plain Song (1965) and Locations (1968). These volumes appeared during a period of innovation in American verse. Poets such as Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov, and Robert Duncan had only recently published their first major work, and the Beat writers, particularly Allen Ginsberg, were still "news." While varying widely in subject matter and style, these poets all rejected academic formalism in favor of clear imagery and mythic resonances. They looked to Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound for inspiration more than to T. S. Eliot, who had been considered the exemplary modern poet by many poets of the 1940s and 1950s. They also embraced poetic traditions from nations other than the United States and England, and in languages other than English. In sum, American poetry of the 1960s tended to free verse and was at once more local and international in its influences and aims. Harrison's relation as a young writer to these trends can be gauged by his two degrees in comparative literature at Michigan State University (BA 1960, MA 1966) and by comments he makes in the introduction to The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems (1998). Here he contrasts the literary snobbery he encountered while working as "a road man for a book wholesaler" in the 1950s with the camaraderie of poets he met during his single year as a college instructor in 1966: I recall how startled I was in my early twenties in Boston when I discovered I was not allowed to like Roethke, the [Robert] Lowell of Life Studies, and also Duncan, Snyder, and [Charles] Olson, the latter three whom I came to know. I remember that in my brief time in academia, in our rather shabby rental in Stony Brook [New York], we had gatherings of poets as diverse as Denise Levertov, Louis Simpson, James Wright, and Robert Duncan who all effortlessly got along. But then, the poem is the thing and most of the rest are variations on the theme of gossip. (2-3) The reference to Wright is particularly apt, given the harmony he and Robert Bly were striving to achieve between midwestern vernacular and influences from Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Multicultural reading had the same effect on Harrison as on Bly and Wright: it enabled him to turn from "the wretchedness of xenophobia and the repetitive vagaries of literary history" and to treat American experience without undue self-consciousness or nationalism. Harrison's Plain Song, which appeared just three years after Bly's Silence in the Snowy Fields and two years after Wright's The Branch Will Not Break, resembles the earlier books in its expansiveness and embrace of the local, personal, and quotidian. "I had been eating the contents of world poetry since I was fifteen," Harrison recalls, "and without any idea of what to spit out. I collected Botteghe Oscure [an international review from Italy that published Roethke and Wright], but also Bly's magazines The Fifties and The Sixties. I was obsessed with Lorca, W. C. Williams, Apollinaire, Rimbaud, and Walt Whitman but none of it much shows in the book, which is mostly poems out of my rural past" (3). In style as well as theme, Harrison's first book is notably midwestern. Even its title, Plain Song, suggests the region's landscape and unaffected vernacular speech. His own milieu, ultimately, interested Harrison more than modernist aestheticism. "My background was essentially populist," Harrison wrote in his master's thesis, "and it was impossible for me to become comfortably absorbed in [the modernists’] concerns" (Just before Dark, 199).1 Memories of his family and the northern Michigan countryside, however, do absorb his interest. In "Sketch for a Job-Application Blank," for example, Harrison describes his own appearance ("My left eye is blind and jogs / Like a milky sparrow in its socket"), early fears ("electric fences, / my uncle's hounds, / the pump arm of an oil well, / the chop and whir of a combine in the sun"), and brief flirtation with evangelical Christianity. He also expresses ambivalence about his ethnic heritage: From my ancestors, the Swedes, I suppose I inherit the love of rainy woods, kegs of herring and neat whiskey. . . . (But on the other side, from the German Mennonites, their rag smoke prayers and porky daughters I got intolerance, and aimless diligence.)2 (10-11) The passage brings to mind Roethke's description of his own family as "austere German-Americans" whose "love of order" and "terrifying efficiency" resulted in the astonishing beauty of the greenhouses (On the Poet, 8). Something of their orderliness appears in Roethke's poetry, which is formally complex even when experimental. Harrison similarly attributes to his ancestry his feelings about nature ("the love of rainy woods") and work ("the aimless diligence" that led to the publication of twenty books by 1998). This "job application" is Harrison's ars poetica; the employment sought is that of Romantic poet. Harrison here announces the theme which continues to occupy him after nearly four decades: the Romantic quest for organic wholeness in which "self is the first sacrament" and he "who loves not the misery and taint / of the present tense is lost." This quest takes him from childhood fears to "a lunar arrogance," from his baptism "by immersion in the tank at Williamston [Michigan]" to a yearning for earthly pleasures such as the "night beside a pond / she dried my feet with her yellow hair" (10-11). Harrison's poetry exhibits an intertextual relation to that of Roethke not only by chance of geography. In her review of Locations, Lisel Mueller writes that Harrison "shares with that other Michigan poet, Theodore Roethke, not only the longing to be part of the instinctual world, but also the remarkable knowledge of plant and animal life that comes only with long familiarity and close observation" (322). Harrison first encountered Roethke's poetry when he was a college sophomore, a discovery that encouraged his own early poetic efforts. Since his father worked in a field not dissimilar to that of Roethke's father (Winfield Sprague Harrison was a farmer and soil conservation agent), Harrison perceived "the direct sense that our backgrounds were similar enough that there was some hope for me as a poet, so I absorbed him rather than read him."3 Like Roethke's, Harrison's Michigan is a landscape bruised by years of environmentally unsound economic activity, the natural beauty of which nonetheless offers relief from the stresses of modern industrial society. His poem "Northern Michigan" (from Plain Song) belongs with Roethke's "Highway: Michigan" in any anthology of writing about the state: On this back road the land has the juice taken out of it: stump fences surround nothing worth their tearing down by a deserted filling station a Veedol sign, the rusted hulk of a Frazer, "live bait" on battered tin. Like Roethke, Harrison describes "the progress of the jaded," though the "back road" lacks even the sheen of economic activity. The only automobile in view is junked, and the gas station is closed. Similar to Roethke "at the field's end, in the corner missed by the mower,"4 Harrison juxtaposes a scene of human failure (his catalog of static human artifacts) with nature's exuberance, expressed by the active verbs of the poem's second half. There he shows nature surviving even in a land with "the juice taken out of it": In the far corner of the pasture, in the shadow of the wood lot a herd of twenty deer: three bucks are showing offthey jump in turn across the fence, flanks arch and twist to get higher in the twilight as the last light filters through the woods. (16-17) Harrison provides historical context for "Northern Michigan" in his first novel, Wolf (1971), in which his semiautobiographical narrator describes the same country as "lumbered off for a hundred years with few traces of the grand white pine which once covered it, an occasional charred almost petrified stump four feet in diameter, evidence of trees which rose nearly two hundred feet and covered the northern half of the state and the Upper Peninsula, razed with truly insolent completeness by the lumber barons after the Civil War with all the money going to the cities of the southSaginaw, Lansing, Detroit-and east to Boston and New York" (18). All of Harrison's writing involving Michigan scenes is informed by this knowledge of how the land was stripped of its ancient grandeur. His historical allusions result in what Gary Snyder calls "instantlyapprehended because so-well-digested larger loopings of lore" (Real Work, 62). This kind of "lore digestion" operates in Harrison's novel Sundog (1984), the main character of which is named Corvus Strang: Corvus after the genus appellation of crows and ravens, birds common to northern Michigan, and Strang after James Strang, the nineteenth-century Mormon leader who declared himself king of Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. Harrison's Strang parallels his namesake in the religious fundamentalism of his youth and in his love for nature; his work on large construction projects around the world resembles a modern day version of King Strang's attempt to found a new Eden in the then wilderness of northern Michigan. With regional history in mind, Harrison explores in his poetry special places in his familiar terrain, which like Roethke's Tittabawassee locales relieve confusion and psychic distress. Alluding to The Poetics of Space (1969) by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, Harrison lists such natural features of northern Michigan as "gullies, hummocks in swamps, swales in the middle of large fields, the small alluvial fan created by feeder creeks, undercut river banks, miniature springs, dense thickets of the tops of hills: like Bachelard's attics, seashells, drawers, cellars, these places are a balm to me" (Just before Dark, 262-63). The poem "Walking" explores many such places: Walking back on a chill morning past Kilmer's Lake into the first broad gully down its trough and over a ridge of poplar, scrub oak, and into a large gully, walking into the slow fresh warmth of midmorning to Spider Lake where I drank at a small spring remembered from ten years back; walking northwest two miles where another gully opened, seeing a stump on a knoll where my father stood one deer season, and tiring of sleet and cold burned a pine stump, the snow gathering fire-orange on a dull day; walking past charred stumps blackened by the ‘81 fire to a great hollow stump near a basswood swale. . . . These lines are characteristic of Harrison's work in their wealth of prepositions-"into," "down," and "over," for example, which trace the speaker's movement-and the many topographical nouns, such as "lake," "gully," "ridge," "spring," "knoll," and "swale." These words are particular to the subtle gradations of Harrison's Michigan landscape, gradations that require a fine eye to observe and a specific vocabulary to describe. Harrison states in "Passacaglia on Getting Lost" the pleasure he takes in finding (and writing about) the kind of natural beauty many people overlook: "I prefer places valued by no one else. The Upper Peninsula has many of these places that lack the drama and differentiation favored by the garden variety nature buff. I have a personal stump back in a forest clearing. Someone, probably a deer hunter, has left a beer bottle beside the stump. I leave the beer bottle there to conceal the value of the stump" (Just before Dark, 263). Harrison owns Leopold's land aesthetic, the ability to admire landscapes "under the bellies of the buffalo," that is, with natural history in mind rather than the facile, picturesque aesthetic of "the garden variety nature buff." The pine stump is Harrison's buffalo, a reminder of the logging era in the Upper Great Lakes, a period of ecological destruction that coincided with the near extinction of the buffalo on the Great Plains. In the sequence titled "Geo-Bestiary" (1998), the stump offers Harrison shelter from the thunderstorms of northern Michigan, and an opportunity for amateur phenology. Waiting for the rain to cease, he notices that animal droppings tell a story: "The coyote has been eating mice, / the bear berries, the bobcat a rabbit." Harrison's observations resemble a response to an exam question in one of Aldo Leopold's game conservation classes. They also reflect Harrison's practice of Zen meditation, by which one achieves a heightened consciousness by emptying the mind of thoughts, desires, and fears. "Here is a place to think about nothing," he writes, "which is what I do" (234). In "Walking," Harrison mentions the 1881 fire as an important factor in local ecology. A more immediate context is personal association with certain locations. As if noting significant sites on a pilgrimage, Harrison drinks at the familiar spring and recognizes the knoll where his father burned the stump. In the poem's many subsequent lines, Harrison resumes his walk through cedar swamps, lakes, and finally to an island out in "the larger water" where he immerses himself in a hidden spring. While the moment lacks the explicit connotation of death and acceptance of mortality expressed by Roethke's watery "North American Sequence," it shares Roethke's relief and expanded sense of self. As he describes the many locations of "Walking," Harrison himself is not much more than the one who is doing the walking into, through, and over. The poem's final image, of the speaker "sliding far down into a deep cool / dark endless weight of water," transforms him from mere observer into an integral part of the landscape (54). Harrison's "larger water" recalls the conclusion of Roethke's "The Long Waters," as Roethke stares out into the Pacific: "I lose and find myself in the long water; / I am gathered together once more; / I embrace the world" (192). The flow of water shapes these poets’ lives, as well as their landscapes; as Harrison has it in his long poem "The Theory and Practice of Rivers," which begins with a description of floating on "the rivers of [his] life": . . . the current lifts me up and out into the dark, gathering motion, drifting into an eddy with a sideways swirl, the sandbar cooler than the air: to speak it clearly, how the water goes is how the earth is shaped. (303) Like Roethke and Wright, however, Harrison modifies his Romantic attraction to the natural world by insisting on the difficulties posed by such an embrace. A recurring motif in Harrison's writing is the experience of "getting lost," which literally means to lose one's bearings in the backcountry. In "Passacaglia on Getting Lost," Harrison states that "getting lost is to sense the ‘animus’ of nature," thereby recognizing the landscape as a living force, a natural context outside the ordinary, indoor, social world. "Perhaps getting lost temporarily destroys the acquisitive sense," he suggests (Just before Dark, 262-63). In "The Theory and Practice of Rivers," written in the isolation of his Upper Peninsula cabin, Harrison considers the locations of his life, including Key West, Los Angeles, and Grove Street in New York, where at age nineteen he discovered "red wine, garlic, Rimbaud, / and a red haired girl." At the river, which Harrison says "is as far as I move / from the world of numbers," he seeks a sense of himself independent of his memories and ambitions: What is it to actually go outside the nest we have built for ourselves, and earlier our father's nest: to go into a forest alone with our eyes open? It's different when you don't know what's over the hillkeep the river on your left, then you see the river on your right. I have simply forgotten left and right, even up and down, whirl then sleep on a cloudy day to forget direction. It is hard to learn how to be lost after so much training. (314) Getting lost, according to Harrison, is less dangerous for the body than for the soul; as Swanson, the narrator of Wolf observes, "[T]he rare deaths that occur are simply a matter of the lost waiting too long to turn around" (18). Such was the fate of two snowmobilers near Harrison's cabin one winter. "They could have piled deadfall wood around their machines," Harrison writes in "Passacaglia," "and dropped matches into the remnants of the gas in the tanks, creating an enormous pyre for the search planes" (Just before Dark, 264). These men were doomed by their utilitarian attachment to machines: their "acquisitive sense" prevented consideration of the one act that could have saved their lives. For a person whose resourcefulness would prevent such a tragedy, the more immediate danger in becoming lost is psychic: the possibility of projecting one's psychological crises onto the surroundings: "When we are lost we lose our peripheries. Our thoughts zoom outward and infect the landscape. Years later you can revisit an area and find these thoughts still diseasing the same landscape. It requires a particular kind of behavior to heal the location" (Just before Dark, 262). By behavior Harrison implies ritual. In poems such as "Walking" and "The Theory and Practice of Rivers," Harrison associates observation with observance, that is, with rite, ceremony, and sacrament. Arriving at a spring, knoll, or swale with a reverent attitude, one learns not only to see but also to cope with life, with the burdens of personal and social history. These matters come into focus in the back country because, as Harrison notes in koan-like fashion, "When you're lost you know who you are. You're the only one out there" (Just before Dark, 264). This is the case with Swanson, the narrator of Wolf whose life history is almost identical to the author's: the loss of sight in one eye, the deaths of his beloved sister and father in a car crash, a bohemian period in New York and Boston. Alone in the woods of northern Michigan, Swanson fishes and camps out, all the while brooding over his private sorrows and alienation from a society that seems bent on destroying all sacred places in the name of profit: From the vantage point of 1970 it appeared that all my movements since 1958 had been lateral rather than forward. I had printed three extremely slender books of poetry which took up approximately an inch of shelf space. A succession of not very interesting nervous breakdowns. The reading of perhaps a few thousand books and the absorption of no wisdom from them. . . . My real griefs were over the dead and the prospects of a disastrous future; my affection for the presentness of the woods was easily accounted for. Trees offer no problems and even if all wilderness is despoiled I'll settle for a hundred acres and hide within it and defend it. (138-39) There is little sentimentality about nature in Wolf; Swanson knows that he can neither escape his past nor discover a pristine sanctuary from industrial society. Depressed, lonely, and beset by alcoholic cravings, Swanson does not seek places of postcard beauty, but "swamps divided invisibly from the air by interlocking creeks and small rivers, made unbearable in spring and summer by mosquitoes and black flies, swamps dank with brackish water and pools of green slime, small knolls of fern, bog marshes of sphagnum, spongelike and tortuous to the human foot and bordered by impenetrable tamarack thickets" (18). This difficult terrain corresponds to Swanson's memory and feelings of dread, a psychic landscape that he is determined to explore at any emotional cost. The premise of Harrison's first novel is not particularly original; Wolf follows Cooper's Leatherstocking tales and Hemingway's Nick Adams stories in an American tradition of wilderness romance. Such narratives center on male protagonists who flee from society into primitive country that restores their masculine vigor and instinct. Harrison's similarities to Hemingway are particularly obvious. Both authors depict semiautobiographical characters fishing and hunting in northern Michigan, describing the region's woods and waters with affectionate and sometimes luminous detail. Both struggled with alcoholism and suicidal thoughts; Swanson in Wolf briefly turns his rifle to his own forehead, contemplating "how Hemingway in unthinkable pain, mental and physical, picked the shotgun from the cabinet that morning" in 1961 (141). Harrison's differences from Hemingway, however, overwhelm the largely superficial similarities. First, he did not kill himself. The fear that he might led him to confront the topic in his writing, as in Letters to Yesenin (1973), poems addressed to the Russian poet who hung himself in 1925. Love for his family, as Harrison writes in that book, sustained him: "My year-old daughter's red / robe hangs from the doorknob shouting Stop" (199). Ultimately, what saved Harrison from Hemingway's fate, besides effective psychiatric treatment, was the tonic of wild nature. Writing of fly fishing and the mayflies that cause trout to rise, Harrison observes that "few of us shoot ourselves during an evening hatch" ("Jim Harrison," 145). Swanson in Wolf comes to a similar conclusion after flirting with Hemingway's method of self-destruction: "I smiled to myself. How far again I was from taking my life with the woods covered with the skin of moonlight" (141). That Harrison also differs from Hemingway as a literary naturalist is evident if we compare Wolf with the most famous Nick Adams story, "Big Two-Hearted River." While both are set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, they express distinct attitudes about nature in distinct styles of prose. Writing in short declarative sentences, Hemingway dwells on details of setting and physical action. Nick pitches his tent, cooks dinner, and catches trout with a competence and deliberation recalling Cooper's Natty Bumppo and Clemens's Huckleberry Finn. The reader leams little about Nick's past; indeed, the common inference that Nick is recovering from the trauma of World War I is possible only when "Big TwoHearted River" is read in light of other Nick Adams stories. Hemingway achieved a modernist perfection in this story by editing out expository passages and references to Nick's social relationships that would have interfered with what Harrison has called the "incorruptible purity of [Hemingway's] style, the splendor and clarity of the language as language" (Just before Dark, 236). The story impresses through inference and reduction, much in the manner of cubist painters. "Nick," Hemingway writes in one of the passages he edited out, "seeing how Cezanne would paint this stretch of river and the swamp, stood up and stepped down into the stream. The water was cold and actual" (248). Despite his belief that "Big Two-Hearted River" would "be near the summit of any literature," Harrison is after quite a different effect in Wolf (Just before Dark, 237). Hemingway ends his story with Nick deciding not to enter a swamp, because "in the fast deep water, in the half light, the fishing would be tragic. In the swamp fishing was a tragic adventure" (202). Harrison, on the other hand, begins his novel with his protagonist plunging headlong into the very terrain, topographical and psychological, that Hemingway avoids. Through intriguing verbal shifts, flashbacks, and stream-ofconsciousness asides, Swanson describes his aimless travel, sexual encounters, and work history with a selfeffacing humor far removed from Hemingway's dignity and seriousness. As inept as Nick Adams is proficient at woodcraft, Swanson carries an old rifle with inaccurate sights and uses trotlines to catch fish instead of the casting rod so deftly handled by Nick. The compass reading he takes is "inaccurate and pointless as the ground in the area was full of varying amounts of iron ore." Proceeding anyway, he is soon "unfathomably lost," in which state he remains for the better part of the novel (19). Nick Adams certainly approaches the woods and waters of northern Michigan with reverence and joy. But he is never lost, not even for a moment. Hemingway's pride as an outdoorsman would never have allowed it. Northern Michigan meant escape for Hemingway, as would Africa and the Gulf Stream in later years: escape from the bourgeois proprieties of Oak Park, Illinois, his childhood hometown, escape into the pine forests and wild rivers of summer, escape from women into a fantasy of male self-sufficiency. Harrison's protagonist, on the other hand, enters the woods at a loss. Missing his family and mourning the deaths of his father and sister, Swanson yearns for the domestic life, both remembered and anticipated, that Hemingway's heroes consistently avoid. "Being lost," Swanson decides, "somehow presupposes a distant location that you are trying to find, a warm center where a door will open, a screen door at that with a piece of cotton on it to keep off the flies, and into a yellow kitchen where a woman is cooking at the stove" (149-50). One explores wild nature, in other words, not out of rugged individualism, but as a ritual retreat from ego and ambition, from which one hopes to return chastened and better prepared to deal with social commitments. Harrison's perspective is rural, not suburban; his pastoral aspires not only to flight but also to return, to family and home. Harrison's next pastoral novel, Farmer (1976), portrays his own people, Swedish Americans who "moved into Northern Michigan because it was a beautiful place" (126). Farmer is set in the 1950s, a period of school consolidation, migration to urban areas, and the industrialization of agriculture on ever-larger farms. The story concerns Joseph Lundgren, a "gimp fortythree year old schoolteacher farmer" torn between his love for one woman and sexual attraction to another (131). As the inevitable decision draws near, Joseph must face a larger issue: his prolonged inaction after the deaths of his father and best friend, Orin, a casualty of the Korean War. He has allowed grief and his physical limitations (a serious childhood injury left him with a permanent limp) to interfere with his passions and commitments: his love for Rosealee, widow of his best friend, and his long-deferred dream of traveling to see the ocean. The crisis, naturally, occurs in a setting of farms and semiwilderness where Joseph acquires greater consciousness and resolve. Literary precedent plays an important role in Farmer. One of the first things we learn about Joseph is that he loves books and spends his free time "reading about the ocean, general works on marine biology, or popular history books dealing with war and the Orient" (3). These books stand in for the adventures he has missed, much as an inappropriate relationship with Catherine, one of his senior students, compensates for his mundane sexual history. Catherine "was from the outside world," having recently moved to the area from a city downstate, "and this clearly interested him no matter how dangerous the situation was" (10). After their first sexual encounter, Joseph goes hunting but is distracted by thoughts of his new lover. Sitting in "his favorite place, a hillock in a grove of oaks overlooking a creek," he contemplates the affair with difficulty because his only points of comparison are literary. Catherine "turned him into a lunatic making him think of the hundreds of novels he had read, written he always believed by liars because he had never until Catherine experienced anything remotely similar except in his imagination" (12). Authors who have fired Joseph's imagination include Walt Whitman, William Faulkner, and D. H. Lawrence, among others. As in Wolf, Hemingway also makes an appearance. Late in the novel, while Joseph drives to Chicago with students on their senior trip, his thoughts briefly turn to Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa and then to Farewell to Arms, "the Hemingway novel about the love affair with the nurse named Catherine who was so unlike the Catherine he had dallied with. The book had upset him terribly and the night he had finished it he had had trouble sleeping" (151). The allusion simultaneously invites and negates comparison of Hemingway, Harrison, and their fictional characters. Harrison's Catherine resembles Hemingway's in name only, just as his fiction shares little with Hemingway's beyond northern Michigan settings and scenes of fishing and hunting. His view of nature is more "humane," in Thoreau's sense, more concerned with social "affections" than solitary adventurousness. Catherine's name, however, may evoke a more accurate association among midwestern modernists: Cather. It is Cather, not Hemingway, who provided Harrison with the type and pattern of his novel. Farmer closely resembles Cather's 0 Pioneers! in many aspects of characterization and pastoral convention. Both novels portray Swedish American farm families on the margins of the Midwest: Harrison's Lundgrens reside in Michigan, just north of the transition between eastern hardwood and pine-oak forest, Cather's Bergsons in south-central Nebraska, just east of the ninety-eighth meridian and the Great Plains. Both protagonists cope with the narrow-mindedness of some in the provinces. Each misses someone who has moved to the city; Joseph's twin sister Arlice and Alexandra's friend and future husband Carl represent, as Harrison writes of Arlice, "both the treachery and glory of what [Joseph] thought of as the outside world" (133). Joseph and Alexandra both face the death of a parent, after which they must make crucial decisions regarding the disposition of the land they have inherited. Joseph's closest friend is Dr. Evans, a Welsh immigrant many years his senior who provides him with sage advice and company on fishing trips; Alexandra relies on Ivar, the old Norwegian, to speak frankly about family problems as well as livestock. Both novels pivot on stories of troubled love: Joseph's destructive triangle with Rosealee and Catherine, and Marie's with Emil Bergson and her husband, Frank, in 0 Pioneers! In its Virgilian concern with love, aging, and death; desire for wider knowledge; and intense awareness of local geography, Farmer adapts Catherian pastoral to a northern Michigan setting. It reads as an homage to Cather and to the farm community of Harrison's youth. Place, as in earlier pastoral novels, is the unifying theme of Farmer. Joseph's challenge is to live authentically where he is, to center himself within the wider world. The pastoral convention of rural-urban contrast is operative here, with Joseph's twin sister Arlice providing a foil for Joseph with her sophisticated life in New York. Joseph might have followed her advice simply to leave. The benefits of city life are obvious: employment, access to cultural resources, and a general sense of novelty and adventure. Further incentive to move is provided by the limitations of rural society: the casual racism and xenophobia that sometimes make Joseph feel "that all country people were essentially hillbillies, no matter the distance to the Mason-Dixon line" (91). Rosealee, who also teaches, deals with bigotry by "accepting [people] as they were and [making] great efforts to register some change, however small." Since he lacks such patience, "Joseph's tactic was merely to stare with unconcealed contempt." But he is very much of the place; the locals "all knew Joseph was somehow one of them, no matter how strange and removed his behavior. They knew his parents and sisters, the dimensions of the family farm, who his relations were, how the family fared during the Depression and the war" (29). Despite his irritation at provincial intolerance and his yearning to see something of the world, Joseph belongs where he is. What he needs is not to leave but to face the past and make basic decisions about his future. Otherwise he will feel not at home in the country he loves, but trapped. As Dr. Evans tells him, "you have to act some other way than sitting here thinking that life has jilted you. That's what I mean. If you want to marry, marry, and if not say Rosealee I can't marry you. Just do something other than walking around this place pissing your life away brooding" (137). The doctor, it is important to note, is not advising flight or that Joseph stop walking in the woods thinking things over. Hunting and fishing are more than pastimes for Joseph; being outdoors, occasionally pausing in special locations, constitutes his spiritual life. Joseph's attempt to sight a coyote, like Swanson's search in Wolf for that other wild canine, allows him to transcend his obsessiveness and self-absorption: "Joseph could almost see through the coyote's eyes as he laughed with the embarrassment of an amateur: the man sits there restless and stares for four afternoons. He leaves some meat which is not eaten because I'm not hungry. He leaves a lovely white chicken. He runs and waves at hawks and I circle around the clearing. As he walks back to his hiding place I run out and steal the chicken" (24). The idea of a "hiding place" is key here. Joseph's surroundings are full of places that encourage self-transcendence and reassessment. The "safe place of his youth" was "a corner of the mow in the barn [where] he had made a rude house. . . . When he was unhappy he would hide there with his pile of rabbit and raccoon skins, two sets of deer antlers, the dried head of a large pike he had tacked to a board, and his favorite blanket from his early childhood" (98). Favorite places outdoors include the hillock he visits after beginning his affair with Catherine, "a small grassy clearing which was thought of as an Indian graveyard by hearsay," and a "narrow valley at the end of which was the beaver pond and the beginning of the marsh" (123-24). Joseph's motivation in visiting these places is not escapist, but aesthetic and philosophical. "An idea that fixed him to one spot," Harrison writes, "was that life was a death dance and that he had quickly passed through the spring and summer of his life and was halfway through the fall. He had to do a better job on the fall because everyone on earth knew what the winter was like" (14-15). Joseph's musings are not only personal but also social and ecological. After shooting feral dogs that have been dragging down deer, he imagines "a time when Michigan wasn't a game farm for hunters, when the natural predators, the puma, wolf, coyote, and lynx still lived there. And the Indian. Not man hunting for sport and his house pets gone wild and utterly destructive" (46). Recent experiences have changed Joseph's attitude about hunting; he no longer shoots deer, ducks, or woodcock, a small game bird he has removed from the "food category and allowed . . . to join the highest strata, that of the owls and hawks, the raptors, harriers, and Falconiformes" (19). These distinctions arise from ethical and aesthetic imperatives suggested by local geography. Joseph lives in a landscape shaped by glaciers, a region "which after the first wave of lumbering that scalped the land of its giant white pine had not been able to support anything but poplar, scrub oak, mixed stunted conifers, except in the richer swampy areas." Like the Upper Peninsula country featured in Wolf, the area varies in its utility (some parts, "nearly gutted with sand blowing through ferns and brake . . . never should have been farmed at all") and in aesthetic appeal to the average eye (142). Yet to those who know it best, the region offers a way of life, if an uncertain source of income: The good farms in the county tended to follow a rather narrow irregular strip the glaciers had missed and their woodlots were dotted with huge beech and maple and the soil was rich. Joseph's father had stupidly chosen a fringe because of its beauty; all the improvident farmers in the county held one thing in common-they squatted on the moraine like hopeless ducks trying to scratch a living off the few inches of top soil that hovered over the pecker sand and gravel like a thin lid. But the rivers that ran swift and clean through this hilly country and the swamps in the valleys promised wonderful trout fishing, and Joseph and the doctor both loved this land the agriculturalists thought of as useless. (94) Joseph, then, owns not only land but also a land ethic and aesthetic. He is the very sort of amateur naturalist that Leopold corresponded with and occasionally visited to gather field data. Because of his injured leg, he went into teaching rather than full-time farming, preferring to lease his land to neighbors like the "pleasant though utterly venal man who worked his wife and sons to exhaustion farming five hundred acres" (4-5). Lacking venality, Joseph has continued in the manner of his Swedish ancestors, who "came up and bought a small farm for seven hundred dollars just after the century's turn, not to make money but to have a way to live." He is, as far as possible in a time when "farm life . . . was quickly dwindling into the past," an independent yeoman rather than an agriculturalist (126). Joseph, however, has not been as decisive in his personal life as in his outdoor pursuits, and his wavering ultimately diminishes his relationship to nature. Riding on horseback to the valley beyond which begins the marsh, he discovers a change, not in the location but in himself: "This had always been Joseph's favorite place, even in his youth when it had provided the equivalent in the natural world of his fort in the hay mow. But now he was grasping hard for a peace that refused to arrive" (124). Nostalgia is pulling him down, much as "his rock in the barnyard," which "had seemed so large when they were children and used it to climb onto the pony . . . had shriveled [and] was sinking into the ground" (7). Like so many other physical aspects of his environment, the rock reflects Joseph's situation: if he does not overcome his grief, it will pull him into the ground. "I have to . . . get [Rosealee] to forgive me," he muses, "or I'm sunk" (115). When Joseph finally does take action it necessarily encompasses love and place. He takes the advice his mother gives him before she dies of cancer, to sell the farm, marry Rosealee, and honeymoon at the ocean, before returning to cultivate the land Rosealee inherited from Orin. After "nearly destroy[ing] their love like some madman burning a barn or shooting his animals," Joseph gets a second chance at happiness, which means domestic tranquility in a broad sense: faithfulness to both Rosealee and the land (8). The novel has two endings. One occurs in the novel's final pages, as Joseph sleeps with Catherine one last time during the senior trip to Chicago. Chicago, like Detroit, is to Joseph "not so much . . . squalid" as a place "where he just wouldn't fit in" (125). The same might be said of Joseph's affair with Catherine, which begins as "something as full and wonderful as anything the imagination can muster," but ends, predictably, with tears and a bad hangover (13). Harrison places the novel's second ending at the beginning, "a late June evening in 1956 in a seacoast town" as a couple enters a restaurant. It is Joseph and Rosealee on their honeymoon, very much in love: "They laugh and are tentative with a plate of oysters. The man scratches his head, messing his hair. She smiles and reaches across the table, nervously brushing his hair back into place with her palm. He closely examines an oyster shell, rubbing its rough outside surface with curiosity" (1; emphasis Harrison's). Like Cather's Alexandra on her projected honeymoon in Alaska, Joseph has reconciled with his home and his past by traveling, not to escape but to explore and then return with a more open heart. As the other diners notice, Joseph and Rosealee belong together, and in their place: "The prescient ones in the restaurant who have eaten much more slowly than the couple have made up their minds. It is a farmer and his wife. And likely from the midwest, as the farmers from the west, ranchers, tend to dress more extravagantly, and those from the east with enough money to travel wear more fashionable clothes" (1-2). Other than Farmer, Harrison's fiction in the 1970s tended to experimentalism. A Good Day to Die (1973) anticipated the premise of Edward Abbey's ecofable The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975): hard-drinking environmentalists decide to free a western river by blowing up an offending dam. Legends of the Fall (1978) is a collection of three novellas "comprised of adventure, violence, romantic obsession, and death" (Roberson, 234). Only one, "The Man Who Gave Up His Name," is partly set in the Midwest; the others take place in Mexico and in Montana. Although the book earned Harrison a wider audience and reviews comparing him to Faulkner and Melville, it also gave critics a chance to tag him as a "macho" writer. This, as William H. Roberson convincingly argues, is a "particularly myopic critical perception of [Harrison's] fiction": Although all of his stories may be marked with what some may narrowly and traditionally perceive to be the ancient rituals of masculinity-drinking, fishing, hunting, and sex-Harrison consistently deflates the super male animal. . . . If they are seen as macho, it must be as a macho pose, and that pose is ultimately sentimental and thus self-destructive. . . . [They] do not represent the epitome of manliness and virtue. They are not leaders; they are lost. . . . Their inability to commit themselves successfully to women or families is not a strength but a failure of the characters, a point Harrison makes clear in the relationships that evolve in his other works. (236) In Legends of the Fall, as Roberson points out, machismo leads to "emptiness or exhaustion . . . loss, pity, and isolation" (235). Harrison's other fictions deal with the issue comically, from Swanson's bumbling through the woods in Wolf to the "goofiness" exhibited by several of his narrators, including Lundgren in Warlock (1981), "Jim Harrison" in Sundog, and Michael in Dalva. These characters all reflect aspects of their author at his imagined worst: impulsive, overindulgent, and prone to getting lost in the woods. Roberson sums up these characters well: "Any pretense at macho is more an example of their own narcissism, vanity, and false pride than any reflection of male dominance" (241). The three works last mentioned undercut male vanity with strong comedic elements adapted, in part, from detective fiction. Warlock involves "a goofy fop" hired by a mysterious and wealthy landowner to investigate violations of his property rights in northern Michigan. Sundog is narrated by a version of Harrison as a dissipated journalist who embarks on "a long journey back toward Earth" by investigating a retired engineer named Strang (xi). Humor in Sundog derives from the discrepancy between "Harrison's" tough attitude and his dread of confrontation. At times he sounds like a character from the fiction of John D. MacDonald, a detective writer Harrison praises in Sundog and elsewhere for evoking "the riper colors of evil, sex, utter mayhem" (209): "You could enter schizoid Michigan in the Detroit metropolitan area, where the old West replays itself with over six hundred murders a year, the new mythology, not the quick-draw face-off, but the squalor of anonymous slaughter; then out Michigan's nether end, the U.P., as it's called, you enter a timberedover, rock-strewn waste, a land so dense and desolate it became obvious to me that the most redoubtable survivalist couldn't survive" (14). Harrison's description of Detroit also brings to mind detective writers Elmore Leonard and Loren Estleman, who have written extensively about the Motor City's underworld and have created characters not unlike Strang's brother Karl, a violent and implacable man. Harrison, however, uses detective convention, particularly the genre's wry and skeptical tone, with self-effacing hyperbole. When, for example, Strang's ex-wife accurately dismisses the narrator as "drunk on novelty, not reality," he begins to "to strangle and hyperventilate at the same time," then falls "facedown in [his] pear sorbet and chevre cheese" (4). As the narrator of Sundog says, however, "the [detective] genre was limited and, finally, tended to attach itself to an excitement with a rather low metaphysical lid" (210). The heart of the novel is Strang's own narrative, edited from "a thousand or so pages of transcribed tape" (x). His story, "immersed in love, work, and death," is a pastoral invocation of "the mystery of personality, of life itself" (210). Images of immersion, particularly in rivers and lakes, dominate Strang's life as he tells it, beginning with his near drowning at age seven. Thrown from a boat one night by a lightning strike, Strang survived because of his ability to swim at night. The accident, however, brought on petit mal epilepsy, a lifelong affliction that almost killed him years later when a seizure caused him to fall from a dam he was helping to construct in Venezuela. Strang has returned to the region of his childhood, where he tries to recover from his injuries by crawling through the woods and wading up rivers at night. At the journalist's request, Strang also reviews his life as the son of an evangelical minister and as a construction foreman on irrigation projects around the world. Strang differs from Harrison's typical male character in his "capacity to be all of one piece at any given time" (167). The central conflict in Strang's life has been between spirituality and action, "the call to commit an act of daring that will lift him out of the commonplace in the eyes of others" (56). As a child, he plans either to follow his father into the ministry or to become a great engineer. Although he does preach for a time, Strang is ineluctably drawn to a life of passion, hard work, and travel. His call to adventure takes the form of the Mackinac Bridge, a landmark project to span the straits dividing Michigan's two peninsulas. This great bridge "represented the slowly building path to the outside world," which Strang explored for thirty years working on similarly grand constructions in Africa and South America (147). Having grown up in poverty, Strang is compelled by the social utility of his work. "Those triumphs of technology and engineering," he tells the narrator, "are questioned the most by the people who have the most," not by people in places "where the drilling of one first-rate well with pure water could save hundreds of lives from fatal cholera, not to speak of any number of slower deaths from other diseases" (154). There is something of the midwestern tinkerer in Strang's makeup, in his practical bent and faith in applied science. Yet, as Roberson points out, "his is a triumph of spirit not physicality" (239). A life spent diverting rivers has given Strang cause to ponder the correspondence of human life with the rhythms of nature. His meditation on water, spiritual and scientific, culminates in "The Theory and Practice of Rivers," the title under which Strang has collected his thoughts about hydrology. In his Paris Review interview with Jim Fergus, Harrison explains the underlying metaphor: "In a life properly lived, you're a river. You touch things lightly or deeply; you move along because life herself moves, and you can't stop it; you can't figure out a banal game plan applicable to all situations; you just have to go with the ‘beingness of life,‘ as Rilke would have it. In Sundog, Strang says a dam doesn't stop a river, it just controls the flow. Technically speaking, you can't stop one at all" (57). Strang's life and his narration of it has this kind of flow, as in a "speech, almost oracular, with some of the rhythms of an evangelist" that he delivers one day. This "odd disquisition" begins with memories of his sister "bathing him in a creek as an infant" and ends "with the nature of the great ocean currents and rivers such as the Humboldt, the Gulf Stream, and others." The point is "that water never stops: it is always in movement up into the air, or down into the earth where there are, of all things, underground rivers" (166). Despite his psychological and physical afflictions, Strang still seeks the center of streams, literally and figuratively. He allows his consciousness to flow backward in time, downward into the mysteries of his own identity and forward into an uncertain future. The autobiographical dimension of Sundog is not limited to the journalist, who shares a name and part of his life history with the author. Strang himself is an alter ego for Harrison, who also suffered a life-altering accident at age seven, dabbled in theology, read adventure books by Richard Halliburton, and favored night walking along rivers as a form of meditation. In the novel, as it turns out, the relationship between Strang and the fictional Harrison may run thicker than water. Just when Strang's actual parentage has been clarified, the narrator learns that he and Strang may in fact be half brothers. Although the possibility that they share a father remains unconfirmed, it resonates as a final "mystery of personality" in this, the most philosophical of Harrison's novels. One of the author's most compelling characters, Strang figures as a model of consciousness and self-transcendence in relation to personal history and place. He is, in part, what Harrison would like to be. Strang remembers someone (psychologist James Hillman, actually) asking, "What have we done with the twin that was given us when we were given our soul?" (164). What Harrison has done is to personify his twin, soul, or anima as autobiographically inspired characters like Strang, whose private writings about water anticipate both the title and substance of Harrison's next book of poems, The Theory and Practice of Rivers (1985). Sundog also anticipates Harrison's next novel, Dalva (1988), which resembles the earlier work in its use of multiple narration, characters representing contrary dimensions of the author's personality, and research into the family history of a well-traveled rural midwesterner. Dalva fulfills the epic ambitions of Legends of the Fall and Sundog by amplifying their historical as well as psychological concerns. It is an ambitious book and a landmark in midwestern pastoral. The novel bears the name of its protagonist, a fortyfive-year-old woman who returns to northwestern Nebraska after years spent elsewhere pursuing "a wonderfully undistinguished career, but an interesting enough life" (251). Most recently a social worker in Santa Monica, California, Dalva comes back to inherited wealth, a substantial ranch, and unresolved conflicts related to family history. On a personal level, she wishes to find the son she gave up at birth and to cope more effectively with the loss of her lover, the child's father, and with her father's death in the Korean War. The larger context of Dalva's return home is her family's role in plains history. She has agreed to let Michael, a historian and her current lover, read the diaries of her great-grandfather John Wesley Northridge, an agricultural missionary to the Sioux in the late nineteenth century. In return, Michael has agreed to help Dalva find her missing son. These stories converge in the novel's climax, when Dalva faces her own past and that of the nation by descending into the cellar of her home, which holds Northridge's secret collection of Indian artifacts. The narrative strategies that Harrison employs in Dalva have occasioned most of the critical commentary, positive and negative, on the book. For the first time, Harrison narrates from a female point of view, speaking in Dalva's voice in the first and last of three sections. The middle section is told by Michael, the loutish historian who also quotes at length from Northridge's diaries. Their relationship reenacts the conventional pastoral contrast of urban and rural personalities, though in a comic fashion. Unlike the graceful and confident Dalva, Michael "seemed unaware that his head was connected in any meaningful way to his body" (84). He acts and speaks impulsively, drinking to excess and abusing Dalva's trust and that of her neighbors. His final irresponsibility is to have sex with an underage girl, whose father takes revenge by sending Michael to the hospital with a broken jaw and arm. Only then does Dalva reconsider her "involvement with the miserable son of a bitch," who "simply in some classic sense didn't know any better" (218). While many reviewers agreed with Jonathan Yardley that "the book runs a bit off course while [Michael] is at center stage," most felt that Harrison had succeeded with the voice and character of Dalva (3). Perhaps the keenest assessment came from Louise Erdrich. Although she faults Harrison for excessive "descriptions of drinking . . . sentimentalism, [and] a tendency to lecture," Erdrich praises his "fascinating mixture of voices that cut through time and cross the barriers of culture and gender to achieve a work in chorus." Dalva, Erdrich concludes, should be "celebrated, suspended in its own beauty, met halfway and read with trust and exuberance." Coming from a major novelist and poet who has written extensively about the Great Plains, that is high praise indeed. As a pastoral novel, Dalva responds to Erdrich and other contemporary Native American authors who have caused Harrison to reconsider the relation of his own writing to history and landscape. In his essay "Poetry as Survival," Harrison observes that these writers are often "ignored by readers because they represent a ghost that is too utterly painful to be encountered": Actual readers of literature are people of conscience . . but conscience can be delayed by malice, stereotypes, a natural aversion to the unpleasant. I'm old enough to remember when Langston Hughes and Richard Wright were considered the only black writers of interest. Publishers come largely from the East and anything between our two dream coasts tends to be considered an oblique imposition. There's also the notion that the predominantly white literary establishment idealizes a misty, ruined past when life held unity and grace. [For] Native American poets the past isn't misty, [and] the civilization that was destroyed was a living memory for their grandparents, and thus the Indian poet is a living paradigm of the modern condition. (Just before Dark, 300) The idea of a "misty, ruined past" is of course one version of pastoral myth, best represented in midwestern fiction by Willa Cather. While she overcame the regional bias against writing from "between our two dream coasts," Cather did not transcend pastoral distortions of American history. However sensitive to the natural beauty of the prairie, her pioneer novels disregard Native Americans and the violence of their displacement. In Dalva, Harrison creates a version of Catherian pastoral, one modified by the lessons of Native American literature and history and motivated by his hope that "these people might clarify why I had spent over forty years wandering around in the natural world" and that "the two cultures had more to offer each other than their respective demons" (Just before Dark, 298). Dalva resembles Cather's pioneer novels in its Nebraska setting and portrayal of an independent land-owning woman. Like Alexandra Bergson in 0 Pioneers! Dalva (who is partly of Swedish descent) is generous, imaginative, and sensitive to the subtle beauty of the prairie. Her relationship with Lundquist, an elderly Swedish American farmhand who also worked for her grandfather, is analogous to Alexandra's with Ivar, the old Norwegian who looks after the Bergson farm. Like Ivar, the eccentric Lundquist is protective of his employer, good with animals, and decidedly unorthodox in his religious beliefs. Dalva recalls his mystical behavior on a horse-buying trip to Montana, when Lundquist talked to "three ranch dogs about Nebraska, as if to explain why he was there." When asked why the normally unruly dogs had sat so quietly, Lundquist explained that he was being courteous and that "he had never met an animal that didn't know if your heart was in the right place. Humans could develop this ability with each other if they would only study the works of Emanual Swedenborg," the Swedish mystic who influenced Emerson (245). Lundquist's solicitude and propriety extend not only to the natural world, but also to social relations. The reluctance with which he enters Dalva's house demonstrates the same Old World decorum attributed by Cather to "Crazy Ivar," the barefoot mystic of the Divide. Dalva also resembles Cather's Alexandra (and Antonia) in her spirituality of place. Her landscape is storied, full of historical and personal resonances. At times she has felt as if "previous thoughts were hanging on the phone poles and power lines-even sexual fantasies from the distant past . . . lie in wait along creek bottoms and ditches, the village limits of no longer occupied crossroads, the name announcing nothing but itself and the memory of what you were doing and thinking other times you passed this way" (292). While significant locations sometimes disturb Dalva, they also reassure her and ease her sorrows. One such place is "the upper end of a small box canyon" across the Niobrara River from her grandfather's ranch. She first visited the place as a teenager, accompanied by her lover Duane, a halfSioux boy who was trying to recover his heritage. Duane "announced that this was a holy place" and to "prove it he found several arrowheads, and sat on the flat rock for a full hour in silence, facing the east." The following year, after Duane's disappearance and the adoption of their child, Dalva returned to the spot, where she sat for a day meditating and watching animals. "Mostly," she remembers, "I had a very long and intensely restful ‘nothing.‘ I had the odd sensation that I was understanding the earth. This is all very simple-minded and I mention it only because I still do much the same thing when troubled" (55-56). Dalva's topophilia contrasts with Michael's placelessness. Having dissipated a "travel grant back to the Ohio Valley . . . on Chicago high life," Michael fabricated his first book, an ironically well-reviewed history of a steel town (127). His current research represents a chance to redeem himself personally and professionally. But Michael has never bothered to acquaint himself with living Indians or to explore the prairie with any care. "I am not by inclination a nature buff," he says, admitting to his "dislike of its tooth-and-claw world" (115). The idea of entering a river at night fills him with dread, and when he finds himself lost on his first morning in Nebraska, his accidental encounter with one of Dalva's sacred places (a group of Indian mounds in a thicket) only makes him feel "a helpless anger." Typically, he reassures himself with a historian's reliance on dates: "This is 1986-June 6, to be exact, and this fucking place is disturbing me" (117). Michael's limited, intellectual response to landscape amounts to defensive rationalization. He claims, interrupting Dalva during a lunchtime talk, that he sees "human history with a dignity, albeit tentative," while her "vision is infected with a girlish infatuation with Wordsworth and Shelley." He dismisses her ideas as "Dalva's airplane theory": The upshot was that from an airliner the entirety of the United States, except for a few spotty wilderness areas, looked raked over, tracked up, skinned, scalped-in short, abused. . . . In out-of-the-way places there's still a certain spirit, I mean in gullies, off-the-road ditches, neglected creek banks and bottoms, places that have only been tilled once, then neglected, or not at all, like the Sand Hills, parts of northern Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or the untillable but grazed plains of Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, the desert, even the ocean in the middle of the night. Dalva's thoughts are of course Harrison's own on the spirit of place. Michael's typically thoughtless response to her discourse emphasizes his doubtful academic authority: "Just where did you get your degrees?" When Dalva understandably walks out of the restaurant, even his manner of making up reflects his overreliance on intellectual authority. "I got down on my knees and begged her forgiveness," Michael says, "telling her the semi-fib that I had read something similar to her notion in Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space" (123). The contrast between Michael and Dalva is consistent with Harrison's ongoing spiritual autobiography. Dalva represents Harrison's aspirations and Michael his fears, much as do Strang and the journalist-narrator, respectively, in Sundog. She is the answer to the question, borrowed from James Hillman, that Strang poses to "Harrison": "What have we done with the twin that was given us when we were given our soul?" James I. McClintock describes Dalva as "Harrison's experiment in developing his feminine side in the service of his art and his life, born of his sustained thinking about . . . James Hillman's post-Jungian ideas" ("Dalva," 327). Employing the categories of animus and anima, Hillman urges his readers toward "soul-making," a term borrowed from John Keats to signify the deepening of selfhood through sympathy and imagination. To cope with life and achieve fulfillment, one must work through suffering, listen to dreams, and integrate disparate parts of one's personality. Harrison does so by personifying his anima, or female principle, in Dalva, a fictional character whose dreams and sorrows closely match his own. By assuming the voice of a woman, McClintock finds, Harrison was able to find "the ‘twin sister’ he had lost. . . and extend in redemptive ways his understanding of masculinity" (328). As an experiment in soul-making, Dalva should be understood in relation to place and history. Dalva's healing comes not only through dreams, but also through a confrontation of ghosts in her local landscape. Her grief, she concludes, is "too large to be understood" except in relation to the timelessness of the human condition in nature: "I was on the porch on a hot afternoon in June, and before me on hundreds of June afternoons Sioux girls looked for birds’ eggs, buffalo whelped, prairie wolves roamed, and far before that-in prehistory we're told-condors with wingspreads of thirty feet coasted on dense thermals in the hills along the Niobrara" (281). While she may not be able to comprehend grief, Dalva must stop letting it hinder her from embracing life. "I'm forty-five," she realizes, "and there's still a weeping girl in my stomach. I'm still in the arms of dead men-first Father then Duane. I may as well have burned down the goddamned house." This insight occurs to her on a road trip, during which she considers driving over to Fort Robinson, where the great warrior and holy man Crazy Horse was murdered. Dalva's anger at this moment over America's brutality toward its native people causes her to contemplate decisive action in her life. "What I'm trying to do," she decides, "is trade in a dead lover for a live son. I'll throw in a dead father with the dead lover and their souls I have kept in the basement perhaps. Even if I don't get to see the son I have to let the others go" (293). The historical context of Dalva's self-transcendence encompasses literary precedent for Harrison's narrative strategies. In My Antonia, Willa Cather assumes the voice of a male narrator, a character credited with a leading role in the development of former Indian lands in Nebraska. By speaking as Dalva, a woman of oneeighth Sioux descent, Harrison rectifies Cather's effacement of Native Americans from the plains. Furthermore, his pairing of Dalva and Michael as dual narrators serves more than the pastoral convention of paired rural and urban characters so often employed by Cather. Despite his limitations and faults, Michael represents historical consciousness and conscience. Harrison uses Michael to "poke fun at a tradition of scholarship," but stresses in the novel's acknowledgments "that without this tradition we are at the mercy of the renditions of political forces which are always self-serving and dead wrong" (n.p.). Likewise, while Dalva ultimately regrets her involvement with Michael, she recognizes that his research has helped her to overcome depression. "Perhaps unconsciously," Dalva thinks, "I had chosen Michael to rid myself of it" (292). Dalva's grief, then, corresponds to the nation's troubled and violent history. Her healing, or soul-making, requires that she uncover not only her own past but also what Harrison elsewhere calls the "soul history" of America (Just before Dark, 299). Harrison's belief that a nation, like an individual, possesses a soul concurs with Lawrence's commentary on "Spirit of Place" and remarks made by Snyder, Bly, and other writers. Yet "soul history" and "soul-making" in Harrison's vocabulary derive not only from Romantic, post-Romantic, and Jungian sources, but also from Christian teachings. Although he rejects the orthodoxy of "lunatic shitbrained fools" who deny soul to animals and landscape, Harrison's spirituality retains a strong Christian element (Shape of the Journey, 373). "I still seem to write totally within a Christian framework in an odd way," he admitted to interviewer Jim Fergus. "Never has it occurred to me not to believe in God and Jesus, and all that. I was quite a Bible student, pored over and over it, both the Old and New Testament in the King James Version" (79). Harrison does not identify as a Christian, just as he refuses to call himself a Buddhist despite his practice of Zen meditation (Shape of the Journey, 361). But Christianity colors his writing and his view of history and the current state of American society. "The way we killed [the Indians] is also what's killing us now," he told Fergus. "Greed. It's totally an Old Testament notion but absolutely true. Greed is killing the soul-life of the nation. You can see it all around you. It's destroying what's left of our physical beauty, it's polluting the country, it's making us more Germanic and warlike and stupid" (80-81). In Dalva, Harrison personifies the ironies of religion in the first Northridge, who came to Nebraska in 1865. As his diaries reveal, Northridge intended to serve "as a Missionary and Botanist to help the native population, the Indians, to make the inevitable transition from warriors to tillers of the soil, an occupation toward which I am advised they have no predisposition" (115). During the Civil War, Northridge had been confined in the Confederate prison at Andersonville, where like Whitman he wrote letters for dying soldiers. The suffering he witnessed destroyed his faith, as well as his New Englander's taste for Emerson. Nevertheless, Northridge arrived on the Great Plains with optimism and determination to share the Gospel and horticulture with the Sioux. In this regard Michael cites fellow historian T. P. Thorton's argument that "the cultivation of fruit and other trees before the Civil War in New England and New York was considered to be morally uplifting, an antidote to the rapacity of greed that was consuming the nation" (125). Northridge's journal bears out Thorton's thesis; he writes in 1876, just before the nation's centennial celebration and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, that "the Anti-Christ is Greed" (198). In this way Northridge represents Jeffersonianism and Christianity at their best, as opposed to "the inanity of the ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ attitude that propelled millions of nitwits westward, utterly destroying much of the earth and all of the Native cultures" (Road Home, 107). As his son John Wesley Northridge II observes in The Road Home (1998), Harrison's sequel to Dalva, Northridge "was knowledgeable of the sound agricultural practices and the true Christian virtues that would have made the western movement other than the prolonged tragedy it became" (107). He is, in the best sense, a yeoman farmer. Northridge, in this light, can also be described as a postbellum John Chapman. Better known as Johnny Appleseed, Chapman wandered Ohio and Indiana at the turn of the nineteenth century, when that region constituted the western frontier. Although Walt Disney has enfeebled our image of the man (just as he sanitized his hometown of Marcelline, Missouri, into Disneyland's Main Street, USA), Chapman did in fact plant apple trees and distribute seeds across the region. Contrary to the myth of a happy-go-lucky barefoot fool in rags, Chapman was a landowner, horticulturalist, and proselytizer of Swedenborgian gospel. He ranged the frontier in safety even during the Shawnee War because the Indians thought of him as a holy man. Similarly, Northridge owned nurseries in Illinois, Iowa, and New York and befriended the Sioux, who "thought of Northridge as a holy man in his many roles as one who fed them, who taught them to grow things no matter that they despised it, and who had become a capable if amateur doctor over the years" (Dalva, 314). Northridge, however, surpassed Chapman in sympathy for the native people of his region; he harbored warriors, participated in tribal rituals, and married Small Bird, the Sioux woman who became Dalva's greatgrandmother. Perhaps Michael describes him best, in a letter to Dalva, as "a witness to the twilight of the gods," a man who "lived with people who talked to God and who thought ‘God’ talked back to them through the mouthpiece of earth herself’ (276). In John Wesley Northridge, Harrison embodies the moral dilemma at the heart of American pastoral ideology. The successful ranch that Northridge established near the Niobrara River, and that is passed down to Dalva, occupies former Indian land. The garden myth required the displacement of Native Americans. Yet as a local man wonders after Michael's speech to the Rotary Club (a situation recalling Sinclair Lewis's parodies of small-town booster groups), "What I don't get is, where was all those immigrants supposed to go?" Michael has no ready response; he can only admit that "this was a good question but I was describing what happened rather than what was supposed to happen" (202). What was supposed to happen, at least according to well-meaning nineteenth-century Jeffersonians, was the assimilation of Indians into an agrarian republic. While this project fell by the wayside with the rise of Jacksonian democracy, it was revived by supporters of the Dawes Severalty Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1887. Designed to end the tribal structure of Indian society, the Dawes Act provided for the transfer of remaining tribal lands to individual Indians. In classic Jeffersonian fashion, heads of families would be allotted 160 acres (a quarter section) of land, individuals 80 acres. Remaining lands would be sold to white settlers. Reformers hoped that through allotment Indians would learn to live as did whites-as individualistic, propertyowning yeoman farmers. The Dawes Act pushed Northridge over the edge into rage and madness. He ventured east to Albany, New York, in 1886, hoping to shoot Senator Dawes at the Mohonk Conference on the "Indian Question." Since Dawes was not present, Northridge settled for alienating the reformers at the conference with his "plan to create an entire Indian Nation" on the Great Plains. When the president of Amherst College spoke on "the absolute need of awakening in the savage Indian broader desires and ample wants," specifically a "desire for property of his own," Northridge assaulted the man and was subsequently thrown into jail (309-10). History proved Northridge right about the Dawes Act, the enduring legacy of which was not Indian assimilation and empowerment but a staggering loss of land. In 1887, according to Wilcomb E. Washburn, "the Indian land base amounted to 138,000,000 acres." By 1934, when Congress repealed the Dawes Act, "about 60 percent [had] passed out of Indian hands" (145). Even lands allotted to Indian families and individuals proved vulnerable, as land-grabbers leased, purchased, or stole Indian allotments. Indian farming and ranching rarely succeeded, for several reasons. Federal technical assistance was inadequate at best, and agricultural techniques from the East were ill suited to the semiarid plains. As Dalva points out, the plains tribes had adapted perfectly to their environment; they were "nomadic hunters and gatherers, not farmers. The Ponca and Shawnee were pretty good at crops, but not the Sioux" (128). What happened, in Harrison's view as spoken by Michael, was "a nasty pyramid scheme concocted by the robber barons of the railroads and a vastly corrupt U.S. Congress. . . . The settlers came out and swindled and swiped the land treatied to the Indians, protected by a government drunk on power, money, and booze. When the settlers needed more fuel for their greed they used Christianity, and the idea that the Indians weren't using their land" (202). Michael goes further, comparing the American frontier to German expansionism in World War II. "History teaches us," he tells the Rotarians, "that your forefathers behaved like hundreds of thousands of pack-rat little Nazis sweeping across Europe" (204). His comparison extends to the Holocaust, which makes Northridge a nineteenth-century counterpart to German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved Jewish workers from the death camps. "Northridge is interesting," Michael concludes, "because of his consciousness and his conscience, just as Schindler alone is fascinating while millions of Germans who didn't give a fuck are lost to history" (147-48). Harrison, however, avoids a sweeping condemnation of all settlers, immigrants, and their descendants. Near the end of his research, Michael has "extended his sympathies somewhat beyond the Indians to all those involved in the financial hoax of the westward movement. It was the unimaginable bleakness of being stranded in Cheyenne County during the drought of 1887 with a wife and children, the deaths by exhaustion and malnutrition" (266). A descendent of farmers, Harrison refuses to dismiss pastoralism, at its best, as a valid philosophy and way of life. His implicit notion is that history could have been otherwise if Americans and their government had actually lived up to Christian and republican ideals in dealing with the Indian nations. Harrison suggests as much on two occasions in The Road Home. During an argument between Dalva's son Nelse and a young girlfriend of Paul's, "Nelse rattled on rather listlessly about how the theology of land rape seemed to be a cornerstone of the Christian religion and she answered rather sharply that you couldn't blame that on Jesus" (351). On another occasion Dalva's halfSioux grandfather observes that his "mother's people were sacrificed, in toto, for cows when they happily could have lived among them if the land had been shared rather than seized" (99-100). Harrison's ultimate point is the relevance, too often ignored by Americans, of history to the living-a lesson conveyed by Dalva's quest for soul-making and Michael's research into soul history. Those parallel narratives converge in Dalva's climactic moment, when Dalva enters the root cellar of her ancestral house for the first time. In accordance with her grandfather's wishes, she must dispose of Northridge's collection. Indian artifacts must be returned to their rightful owners; those that cannot be traced to particular tribes will be donated to museums. There are also skeletons to be buried: the remains of five Indian warriors who wished to have their remains hidden from grave robbers, and three soldiers killed by Northridge when they invaded his home. After meditating for an hour in the subterranean depths of her own past, her family's, and America's, Dalva feels her burden lifted. "My father and Duane seemed to be with me, then went away as did the weeping girl I had felt in my chest. She went out an upstairs window where she had sat watching the summer morning, the descent of the moon" (298). Dalva's narration continues in The Road Home, along with that of four members of her family: her grandfather John Wesley Northridge II, who failed as an artist but managed to consolidate the estate; the geologist Paul, Northridge's second son and Dalva's uncle; Dalva's mother, Naomi, a schoolteacher and amateur naturalist; and Dalva's son Nelse, a wildlife biologist. Each narrator offers a perspective on the family homestead and the legacy of John Wesley Northridge. Northridge II speaks of his life on the edge between cultures, between the white world of buying cheap and selling dear and that of his mother's people, the Lakota Sioux. For him, life has been "a maddening struggle with ghosts," the most persistent of which are "the ghosts of my former selves that could not leave for more than a few months, excepting for the First World War, this trap my father had built, and I continued building, for body and spirit" (74). A difficult and not entirely likeable man, Northridge tries in his final years to propitiate his ghosts by following the advice of an old friend, a Sioux medicine man named Smith, to do his art and be good to people. In a demonstration of how Northridge can find freedom rather than entrapment on his ranch, Smith stands, after many years, in a favorite spot "that would be hard for anyone to detect . . . as it was a bit off center in the pasture and undifferentiated from its surroundings" (94). In its multiple narration, historical allusiveness, and anthropological speculation, The Road Home is Harrison's most ambitious novel, and his most confident. Perhaps in response to Erdrich and other critics, he avoided the Falstaffian ribaldry of Dalva, only mentioning Michael and allowing no similar character to dominate the story. Driven by description and selfcharacterization rather than plot, the novel is less a sequel than an expansion of the earlier novel. We see Dalva from several points of view, concluding with her own, and we see how each character deals with Northridge II-or, in Nelse's case, with the old man's fateful decision to take him from Dalva at birth. Upon Dalva's death, Nelse will come into his legacy as John Wesley Northridge IV, an inheritance that includes the difficult fact of his parentage: though they did not know until it was too late, Dalva and Duane had the same father, Northridge III. It was out of shame that Northridge II arranged for Nelse's adoption, a loss that haunts Dalva until her son returns in 1986. Their reunion, seen through her eyes at the end of Dalva and through Nelse's at the end of his section in The Road Home, represents the healing of old wounds and the putting to rest of ghosts. Nelse helps Dalva bury the skeletons in the basement, and Dalva demonstrates for her son the patience and endurance he will need to succeed both as a husband and as a husbandman. A typical Northridge loner, claustrophobic and defiant of authority, Nelse is ready to overcome his tendency to retreat from responsibility. With his family's help he prepares to take the final step of their journey on the road home. Harrison's most recent writing shares the assurance of The Road Home. Just before Dark: Collected Nonfiction (1991) showcases his distinctive talents as an essayist, as does The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand (2001). His latest novel, True North (2004), returns to the northern Michigan setting of his earlier fiction, following a young man researching the role of his family in the destruction of Michigan's forests. (Despite the reappearance of motifs from earlier writings, such as a white pine stump in which the protagonist seeks shelter, True North is less a pastoral than a tale of violence and retribution in the vein of Legends of the Fall.) Four more collections of novellas, The Woman Lit by Fireflies (1990), Julip (1994), The Beast God Forgot to Invent (2000), and The Summer He Didn't Die (2005), include two pastorals of retreat: the title story of the first book and "The Beige Dolorosa" from Julip. "The Beige Dolorosa" involves a college professor from Michigan who retires to the Arizona desert after being falsely accused of sexual harassment. While the novella's premise recalls Cather's The Professor's House, the professor in this case opens himself to the jubilance in nature rather than retreating behind the locked doors to his heart. The Woman Lit by Fireflies concerns a society woman from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, who leaves her husband, a former liberal activist who has become a materialistic and reactionary accountant. The novella features the same conflict as Lewis's Main Street: a utilitarian husband driving his wife to distraction by reducing every aspect of life to economic matters. Clare, the woman of the title, abandons her husband at a highway rest stop in Iowa, climbing over a fence into a cornfield where she spends the night talking with loved ones, living and dead. What in clinical terms constitutes a nervous breakdown actually figures as Clare's spiritual awakening, as another Harrison protagonist finds herself by getting lost in a midwestern landscape. The publication of Harrison's The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems (1998) provided an opportunity to assess his accomplishment as a poet. His best work begins with "The Theory and Practice of Rivers" and continues to "Geo-Bestiary," a new series emphasizing animals and wild places around North America. Other recent poems incorporate personal memories into a sweeping vision of geography and history. "The Davenport Lunar Eclipse" finds him in a restaurant on the Mississippi River, awaiting the celestial event while he contemplates time and the lovely way homely old men treat their homely old women in Nebraska and Iowa, the lunch time touch over green Jell-O with pineapple and fried "fish rectangles" for $2.95. Humor and affection for midwestern people mix poignantly with "incomprehension" over Harrison's private sorrows and those of the nation, as he talks with a waitress "home from wild Houston to nurse her sick dad": My grandma lived in Davenport in the 1890s just after Wounded Knee, a signal event, the beginning of America's Sickness unto Death. I'd like to nurse my father back to health he's been dead thirty years, I said to the waitress who agreed. That's why she came home, she said, you only got one. The poem flows toward acquiescence and consolation in companionship and the grandeur of creation. Back in his hotel room, Harrison cannot "hear the river passing like time, / or the moon emerging from the shadow of earth," but he perceives what Taoist philosophy describes as the flow of existence, "the water that never repeats itself." Granted a moment's contentment with life and the prospect of growing old, Harrison concludes the poem with a summation of the essential transcendentalism of his life's work: "It's very difficult to look at the World / and into your heart at the same time. / In between, a life has passed" (381-82). Discussions, like the present one, of authors in relation to literary history tend to make them seem less than original, even derivative. Nothing could be further from the truth in Harrison's case. Indeed, his critical reputation and continued popularity originate in the distinctiveness and personality of his writing. Other dimensions of his work might be emphasized, such as the love of Keats and other British Romantics that almost constitutes a theme of his work. The influence of Faulkner deserves further consideration, and that of Garcia Marquez and other Latin Americans who revere Faulkner, as does Harrison, as the crucial novelist of North American modernism. Harrison's differences from previous midwestern pastoralists should not be ignored, including his inclusion of Christian elements in Romantic spiritual eclecticism. Better traveled than were Cather, Leopold, Roethke, and Wright, Harrison also stresses to a greater degree the need to complement regional understandings with cosmopolitan breadth of vision. "Some people think you can extrapolate all life from one place," he has Strang say in Sundog. "That was Thoreau's mistake, though a very minor one. It's simply not true. The only way to extrapolate the spirit of Africa is to be in Africa" (160). While Harrison's wider orbit has taken him around the Americas and beyond, it consistently brings him back to the Midwest. Unlike major writers of an earlier midwestern generation-Anderson, Cather, Hemingway, and Lewis, who left the region and created many fictional characters who do the same-Harrison emphasizes return rather than departure. The unity of person with place sought in his poetry and essays, and by characters in his fiction, involves "returning to earth" and "coming home," the titles, respectively, of one of his books of poetry and the last section of Dalva. Or, to invoke the titles of two recent volumes, we may say that "the shape of the journey" is that of "the road home." These phrases remind us of Harrison's midwestern predecessors: the first recalls Roethke's "journey to the interior," the second Cather's My Antonia. In the concluding paragraphs of that novel, Cather describes a remnant of the pioneer road that brought Jim and Antonia to the Divide, and that brings them together again late in life. On that road, Jim feels "the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man's experience is" (937). By the end of the twentieth century, however, authors have learned that the circle is wider than Cather supposed, and that the journey home is not only to self but also to community. While thoroughly Romantic in his mystical view of nature and concern for the formative influence of childhood, Harrison has worked hard to overcome the isolating tendencies of Romantic individualism. "The Romantic ‘I,‘" he writes in the introduction to The Shape of the Journey, "with all its inherent stormy bombast, its fungoid elevation of the most questionable aspects of personality, its totally selfreferential regard of life, has tended to disappear" (1). Directly and in allusions, Harrison acknowledges many teachers of self-transcendence, whether American or foreign, Christian, Buddhist, Native American, or Romantic. In its inclusiveness, Harrison's writing represents the maturation of midwestern pastoral. Nostalgia in his vision does not mean a false idealization of the past or a denial of present realities but a yearning for wisdom, a backward glance before turning to face the future.‘ He finds this determination, of course, outdoors, as he reiterates in "Dream as a Metaphor of Survival," the last essay in Just before Dark. "When I walk several hours," he writes, "the earth becomes sufficient to my imagination, and the lesser self is lost or dissipates in the intricacies, both the beauty and the horror, of the natural world." While that sentiment hews closely to Romantic and pastoral traditions, Harrison follows it with an ecological and democratic declaration of interdependence: "I continue to dream myself back to what I lost, and continue to lose and regain, to an earth where I am a fellow creature and to a landscape I can call home. When I return I can offer my family, my writing, my friends, a portion of the gift I've been given by seeking it out, consciously or unconsciously. The mystery is still there" (317). Nature, place, and community: these are the values toward which midwestern pastoral has tended, and that converge in Harrison's best poems, essays, and fiction. Notes 1. As inspired by Neruda, Rilke, and Rimbaud as by Whitman, Harrison responds to Neruda's call for an "impure poetry," described by the Chilean Nobel laureate "as impure as a suit or body . . . stained by food and shame, a poetry with wrinkles, observations, dreams, waking, prophesies, declarations of love and hatred, beasts, blows, idylls, manifestos, denials, doubts, affirmations, taxes" (128). Each of these themes and approaches can be exemplified by passages from Harrison's poetry. Neruda's essay "Some Thoughts on Impure Poetry" may be found in Passions and Impressions, ed. Matilde Neruda and Miguel Otero Silva, trans. Margaret Sayers Peden (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983), 128-29. 2. All quotations of Harrison's poetry are from The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems. 3. Jim Harrison, correspondence with author, September 29, 1989. 4. Roethke, "The Far Field," Collected Poems, 193. 5. I take the phrase "backward glance" from Harrison's "Small Poem," which includes the image of a "doe's backward / glance at the stillborn fawn" (355). The poem connects personal grief with an awareness of historical wrongs. Works Cited Harrison, Jim. The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon, 1998. Roethke, Theodore. The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Garden City, NY: Anchor / Doubleday, 1975. Snyder, Gary. Real Work: Interviews and Talks, 1964-1979. New York: New Directions, 1980.