I have of late–butHamlet Act 2 Scene ii
wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust?
My letters have bogged down, the memories thick with the conditions of the times do not a sublime concoction make. The glass has been heavy. I told you in the beginning, I was terrified of Not Having Enough Time. The world is not making this worry any less. Werner Herzog, Imperial guy trying to get Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian, said recently that like Germany, the United States was waking up to the fact that 1/3 of the population would kill another 1/3 of the population while the other 1/3 watches. He is right, and it is terrifying. I taught for seven years, and then it all came tumbling down. But the time in the classroom, and on the road with the Speech & Debate team, was not all peaches ‘n cream. In fact, almost everything in my life turned upside down by the time you were 1. Teaching and coaching really just became lifelines.
John Lennon wrote that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans. This is so absolutely true. I do not want to be the villain of your story. I do not want you to remember me badly, or worse…. not remember me at all. I fear this is the case, but I write these letters anyway. Hoping against hope that somewhere in the quintessence of our dust – the common sands and grains resonate deeper than the ills that split us.
But my life, the split summers, the two different lives, the mission with its successes and failures, tragic death, the classroom and the debate road, and ultimately marriage – all left me at the close of my twenties in a fractured world that was not supposed to be this way. The pains of woulda, coulda, shoulda only led to more mistakes. I am reminded continually of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I find myself often saying, motive doesn’t matter. What you meant to do doesn’t matter. Nobody cares. It is only the effects that anybody cares about. Unfortunately, that is far more true than not.
The story of your first decade of life, at least from the perspective of your father, was the story of my failure. My only successes in those years were in the classroom, with other people’s children.
Everything else… hurt.
Religion had failed. Romance had failed. Family had failed. Fatherhood had failed. All of the illusions had shattered. Rick, the big bull rider that was larger than life, had nothing figured out. He was dead. Papa, the Captain, had departed the Porch of All Conversations forever. I had lost my only child. But I was the best teacher I could possibly be. And I was wracked with guilt.
In the end, the story of those years is best told through Alaskan Malamutes and the lessons that breeding them, racing them, and working with them taught me about everything else. Much like my great-grandfather, Nick ‘Ned’ Clark, the illiterate half-breed who became a sheep herder was with his dogs, and his son, Norman, was with horses, I found my way through the maze of my failures through the understanding of animals. No judgement. No religion. No rules. Just love. That is all dogs teach.
And somehow… people have found that they cannot live without them.
When 8 Below came out, White Mountain Entertainment contacted me. They had a special viewing for all of the Blue Ridge Elementary kids. When the kids came out of the theater… my dog team and sled was set up awaiting them. My dog, Timber, the red one, was brothers with “Max” the big red Malamute in the movie. In fact, I tried to buy Max, but Disney had him on lease. So I bought his brother. True story. It was magical. I wish that you had been able to experience any of the things that I did…. right.
GET CAUGHT UP.