Fleeting yet Vivid

At the memorial of a much-admired journalism professor yesterday, several friends and students talked about his never-waning curiosity, his deep sense of wonder about the world that had translated into a never-satiated wanderlust.

His first foray into journalism started during a brief stay in Argentina, where he eventually became a stringer and then a reporter for the Associated Press during the DirtyWar in the early 1980s. He was at the Siege of Beirut in 1982. His work and yearning for the novel took him all over the world: He once floated down the Amazon in a river boat with a stray dog and, as I learned from a speaker at the memorial, only a 50-pound bag of rice and some utensils. Last I checked up on him, he was in Brazil involved in teaching. I heard, and it made me tear up and chuckle and the same time, that he had plans to traverse the Gobi Desert on a miniature horse.

He was enigmatic and tough and eccentric. But to celebrate him just for that hour made the present world pale, and the past jump to life, dazzling, dancing. It’s what this photo I took this April, while trekking in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile, reminds me of: a muted present, albeit real, gray and stark under a fleeting, vivid memory that is playing out in the sky.

Sunrise over Patagonia. Torres Del Paine, Chile.

There’s something profound his life has offered me—beyond encouragement and direction—and it’s this: Never to let the light go out. Keep that drive, the furor, the strong desire going. See it all, and see it again.

And never doubt that you’ve never seen it before.

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