Arnold died on Wednesday, April 7th at 5.45 pm. Maybe he would agree with me, over coffee, that this feels like a beautiful, auspicious date. Why, I don’t know. April, Wednesday and 7 all seem to give that sense. He was, I think, 82. Had a bad heart, non-malignant prostate cancer, lost the sight in one eye 3 or so years back to a blood clot. He wore an eye-patch with two small holes drilled into it, which went well with his strong nose and ruddy complexion and full beard still only partly grey.
Drove along the Columbia River today. The Cottonwoods are especially beautiful in April with delicate upward brush-like flushes of mustard-green leaves and catkins hovering in ecstatic clouds. The leaves are not yet full enough to obscure the tall dark columnar forms of trunk and branches. Like all deciduous trees these cottonwoods go through all the stages of mankind each and every year. Arnold has gone through all those stages, now moving in unseen luminous places connected to his loves among us like a cell phone carried off 10,000 miles. Some can hear a little, most are unsure of the connection. He knew the most important thing is that in which our roots are hidden at infinite depth, which cannot be named.
As the days go by I remember more details of his specialness, and more clearly. And his faults brought to focus through my own. He often carried a book around with him, Thoreau, Melville, some early 20th century cultural historian or philosopher. People struggling with spiritual and moral questions outside the convenient answers their societies generated. In recent months it was David Bohm, an inspiration of a man, I put Arnold onto.
If you opened the cover of one of his books you would see almost no sentence not under-lined and all margins full of notes.In his younger years he was a sculptor working in stone. A disciple of the peace activist and Italian American sculptor Bene Bufano.
Arnold remembered the names and mini-biographies of countless people he encountered around the neighborhood he and his sweet intelligent wife Gloria, walked daily.
In the last few years the circle got smaller, maybe a mile and a half at most. This included two or three coffee shops, a drug store, a medical clinic and a market for groceries.
Having watched his quiet friendly urbanity in action over coffee on countless occasions, especially with young people and listened to his early, mid 20th century narrative style. And seeing now how much he is missed at these places. It is clearer to me how a person can act in a world in which the main entropic drift is isolation.
Thanks Arnold, I miss you man!