Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Legacy of Bill Holm: Sage of Minnesota

Reading the Prairie Home Companion newsletter on Friday, I learned about the death of Bill Holm. Garrison wrote a fine tribute to the man who he calls "the sage of Minnesota." Although I never met Bill, Robert Bly introduced me to Holm's stories and poetry. I read Bill's books at my favorite place on the Oregon Coast where I used to go for my solo retreats after leading our "Healing the Hearts of Men" gatherings at Heceta House in the 1990's. The place, called Gull Haven (now Ocean Haven) at the time, has a small cabin -- the Shag's Nest -- out on a point of land overlooking the ocean where Bly often stayed (and, as I recall, Bill Holm frequented himself).

I love poem this poem by Bill, especially the last stanza about the "dark secret of the ones long married."

Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil

A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don't need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.

So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.

But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other's flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alo
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

Take a listen to Bill on the three audio links from past Prairie Home Companion shows (provided below Garrison's tribute to him). And then read his poems, books, and the "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bach" essay on his website. The man left us far too soon ... just 65 years old ... but his legacy lives on in his writings and in our fond memories of this giant of a man with the booming voice and gentle heart.

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