Everything for Your Home's
Beauty, Comfort & Convenience 384-2123
704 Jamestown St, Columbia
Dr. Ronald P. Rogers
Support for your body's natural healing capabilities
Click here for details
Click here for information
Real Estate & Auction Co.
Duo County Telecom
Now Available Through
Your Cable Service!
GUN & PAWN
What's Going On
Info about the
Janice Holt Giles
and Henry Giles Society
Columbia Gas Dept.
GAS LEAK or GAS SMELL
24 hrs/ 365 days
270-384-2006 or 9-1-1
Call before you dig
Directory of Churches
phone numbers and more
for churches in Adair County
Find Great Stuff in
Antiques, Help Wanted,
Autos, Real Estate,
Legal Notices, More...
Tom Chaney: Clear Shadows of Hope's Persistence
Of Writers And Their Books: "Clear Shadows of Hope's Persistence." Tom reviews Possessed by Shadows by his friend Donigan Merritt who was asking him to read some things Donigan was writing in the late 1960s. This column first appeared 22 June 2008.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: "A Merrier Companion There Never Was"
By Tom Chaney
"Clear Shadows of Hope's Persistence"
This week's column is about friendship and love. Love between two climbers Tom and his wife Molly and them knowing Molly must die and Tom and Molly choosing how they must live in the shadow of her impending death.
The book is by Donigan Merritt, Possessed by Shadows [Other Press, 2005].
Tom Valen and Molly Cook meet as climbers at Joshua Tree in California. Molly is one of the best female rock climbers and the daughter of a renowned climber. "My father's most important gift to me is the self-confidence bred in mountains, the pastime that has dominated my life. He made me a climber.
"From my mother I received imagination, the gift of words and dreams.... She read to me.... I grew up craving the telling of stories, fascinated by storytellers. I wanted to be one, but instead I married one."
And she and Tom are married -- a marriage made holy by high mountains and difficult peaks.
Climbing in California Molly is struck unconscious by a rock kicked off a trail by a careless hiker leaning over to watch the climbers. Tom and friends rescue her, but in reading the x-ray, Molly's doctor discovers an inoperable brain tumor marching its relentless path to the destruction of Molly.
Possessed by Shadows then proceeds first in the voice of Tom and then of Molly as they decide how to live. Tom leaves his university teaching post to devote himself to Molly's dwindling life.
The title of the book comes from "The Sonnets to Orpheus" by Rainer Maria Rilke:
Already possessed by shadows, with illness near,Molly describes meeting Tom, "I am amazed at how things work. The utter randomness of it all. The blindness. I had just met and spoken to the man I would love and live with for the rest of my life, and except for this sudden and vague feeling of hunger, the moment passed with no more weight or importance than saying hello to a friendly passerby. Every moment of our lives is pure potentiality, Tom has said."
They spend their honeymoon amongst the peaks of Switzerland and they climb in the mountains of Czechoslovakia with Tom's friend Stefan. And it is to Stefan in Czechoslovakia that they return when Molly's end is near.
From the hospital bed Molly whispers to Tom that "it is time."
Accompanied by Stefan, Tom carries her to a wide ledge high on the Gerlach Ridge in the mountains -- a place she has told Tom she wishes to be at the end.
And in her last coherent journal entry she wrote, "I came into being. I was named. I inhabited spaces. I did things. Things were done in spite of me, to me. I will cease being. It is the most common of human stories. I don't know another way to tell it.
"I only sought a way to say, I am . . .
And if the earthly no longer knows your name,At the beginning I said this was a column about love and friendship. Tom and Molly tell of love in a way that soars above the maudlin, punctuated by the clank of pitons being driven into rock, the crunch of a pick in ice, and the whisper of an empty rope losing its climber.
The friendship has less to do with the novel than with my pride in the ideas and craftsmanship of a dear friend.
When I arrived to teach at Southern State College in Magnolia, Arkansas, in the fall of 1965, Henry Donigan Merritt was one of the first people I met. He was never a student of mine -- good judgment on his part, I suppose, but he quickly became a friend showing up at my house at all hours for talk or for me to read something he wrote.
I left after a couple of years and he did too -- leaving for Michigan and for a stint on a fishing boat out of Hawaii. We stayed in touch.
In 1970 I moved to Iowa to teach theatre at Simpson College. Donigan, by then, was bored with the islands -- too pleasant too much of the time he said.
He enrolled as a philosophy major at Simpson taking high honors at graduation. I returned to Kentucky, Donigan to the Iowa Writers' Workshop; marriage; Coronado, California; six novels; and some years in Europe with his diplomat wife.
Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney
The Sonnets to Orpheus -- Sonnet 25
This story was posted on 2013-06-23 04:58:09
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.
To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.
More articles from topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books:
Tom Chaney: A Merrier Companion there never was
Tom Chaney: The Joy of Drinking
Tom Chaney: Bank Robbery in Hart County
Tom Chaney: The Narcotic Moment of Creative Bliss
Tom Chaney: Margaret Vance Anderson, Glasgow native
Tom Chaney: Atticking, Attaching, Attocking
Tom Chaney: Here be Dragons - Back in Kentucky
Tom Chaney: Joyful Spring
Tom Chaney: The Exhausted Aftermath
Tom Chaney: The Dark Side of History
View even more articles in topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books
Bank of Columbia
If You're Thinking of Selling,
Let Us Do the Yelling
Principal Broker & Auctioneer
Burton Real Estate
& Auction Service
Call Us For Appraisals
Click for Listings
On This Site
or Click Here
The Best of
Local Stories of
The Greatest Generation
Order Book or e-Book
See who's celebrating
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Special Events List
ColumbiaMagazine.com content is available as an RSS/XML feed for your RSS reader or other news aggregator.
Contact us: Columbia Magazine and columbiamagazine.com are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.