I have always found it hard to understand people who mourn for those they never knew. The people who grieve for politicians or celebrities seem to me to experience a grief that isn't really theirs. Tonight I understand. Tonight I learned of Raymond Carver's death from cancer.
Even though Carver was my favorite contemporary writer, I was surprised by the emotion his death made me feel. His architectural prose and his brief, enigmatic poems are not usually considered passionate; Carver heard his work described as "minimalist" by many critics. I think, though, of the close look he took at life, of the loving and minute examinations he made of ordinary lives, everyday circumstances. His writing was, for me, a light in the many recesses he explored.
Last year, I wrote a letter to Carver, the only letter I have ever written to an author. I told him of my admiration for his work and, in preparation for a trip near Carver's one-time home in Northern California, I asked for some fishing tips. Carver wrote me a brief, but gracious reply. "The river has probably changed its course since I was there!" he joked. This summer, another river has changed its course. Carver's writing will remain a marker to show where it flowed through our lives.