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Rogue River Journal
In November of 2000, after the presidential election but before the final results had been handed down by the Supreme Court, John Daniel climbed into his pickup, drove to a remote location in Oregon's Rogue River Canyon, and quit civilization. The strictures were severe. No two-way human communication, no radio, no music, not even his cat. He would isolate himself in a cabin sure to be snowed in soon after his arrival, intent on hearing no human voice but his own until spring thawed the road.
This experiment in solitude was an attempt to clarify his identity while pursuing daily life without the distractions of the world at large and many of the comforts of ordinary domesticity. Thoreau's Walden and Journal with him for inspiration and instruction, Daniel meditated every day and kept a journal, writing about the experience of solitude. He also had other work to do: to come to terms with his dead father, a charismatic union organizer during the heyday of the American labor movement, and to relive the troubled passage of his late teens and early twenties in the 1960s, when he dropped out of college, dithered over the military draft, and lived as a hippie in San Francisco and Portland.
These narratives weave together, and the result, Rogue River Journal, is a remarkable memoir of the joys and tribulations of solitude, the mysteries of growing up, and the haunting legacies of a father.
Rogue River Journal
May 2005, Shoemaker & Hoard
ISBN 1-59376-051-5; $26.00 Cloth
Why I Went by John Daniel - Read about John's motivation for his Rogue River sojourn.
Praise for Rogue River JournalRead the reviews.
"John Daniel has poured his heart—and the soul of his father—into a powerful memoir he wrote during a winter alone in the Oregon wilderness. His experiment in solitude resulted in a thoughtful, moving study of himself, his family and the natural world. As beautifully wrought as it is truthful, Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone is a Walden for our time."—2006 Awards Committee, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association
"Planning a quiet, solitary winter beside a wilderness river, poet John Daniel instead finds himself plunging headlong through sucker holes and blackwater eddies of memory and regret. What does a son owe his father when that father is a famous labor organizer and an alcoholic? What does the father owe the son? How can any of us honor the gift of our bewildering lives? Rogue River Journal is a coup, a page-turner that is thoughtful and beautifully expressed. And John Daniel is a national treasure, writing to the world from his Northwest home in language muscular and true."—Kathleen Dean Moore
"Part memoir, part family portrait, part natural history, part Zen journal, John Daniel's study of solitude, self, and father is intricate, straightfacedly funny, unflinchingly honest, and as satisfying in the end as a long stay beside the great green river that helped give it birth."—David James Duncan
"During his season of solitude in the Oregon wilderness, John Daniel went fishing for more than steelhead trout, went hunting for more than grouse. What he sought, and what this book shows that he found, was wholeness. He traced the patterns that give coherence to his own life, and he glimpsed the integrity—the holiness—of rivers, mountains, family, and all things else. Rogue River Journal is a witty and wise testament by a man writing at the height of his powers."—Scott Russell Sanders, author of The Force of Spirit
"This honest, satisfying memoir is a fine gift from a writer whose ghosts accepted his invitation to the madrone-shaded homestead above the Rogue."—The Oregonian
"Sustained by the natural world, Daniel grapples with the demons of midlife and finds wholeness in this funny, wry and searingly honest book."—Los Angeles Times
"Rogue River Journal is history, memoir, philosophy, and discovery all mixed together into a little gem of enlightenment." —Salem Statesman Journal
"Daniel's time alone is potent, a dilation on the amusements and scorchings of the simple life, and a distillation of the strange, human group that was his family." —Kirkus Reviews
"As he watches winter turn to spring, the author makes peace with his deceased father - forgiving him his rages and alcoholism-and becomes more lenient toward his own, younger self in a lovely melding of memory and natural history." —Booklist
Rogue River Journal touches, more than a little, the fountains of glory in wild lands skirting the Rogue River. It touches another kind of glory also, and with equal elegance-the past, the relationship between a son and a father, as John Daniel recalls, with honesty, flamboyance, tenderness and true regard for his father's life, his own journey toward manhood. It is an extraordinary book. —Mary Oliver, author of Winter Hours