Barry Lopez Remembers Jim Harrison
Losing Him Just Makes You Still For a While
The news of Jim’s death made me go still inside. The world of the moment dropped away and his face and his manner filled the frame of my awareness. We didn’t know each other well, but we felt affection for each other and fed off each other’s work. We came together easily when we met, like two men who grew up in the same town and went off to war together, and then, fifty years later sat down to talk about it. We cared what happened to each other, though mostly we traveled in different circles. I remember after Jim Welch died there was a memorial for him in Missoula and afterward we went to Welch’s house, where his wife, Lois, had put together a meal for all of us. Jim and I were eating on the front lawn at a picnic table with a couple of other people. He was sitting there with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other, staring at a plateful of rich food he’d fixed for himself. He put the cigarette down and picked up a fork and said to no one in particular, “It’s me that should be dead.” The remark rang in my head for years. He was the real deal. He lived big. Losing him just makes you still for a while.