Travel notesIssue 23 | November 2015

Going Places

by Rachel Miller-Howard

A year later, I was still obsessed with going places. I took a contract job at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, for which I would support science by learning the fine art of changing urinal filters and mopping floors. Of course, Just Before Dark accompanied me. Between the plates of mysterious cafeteria cuisine and my unfathomable remoteness, Harrison’s instruction to Leave your reason, your logic at home had never felt more relevant. This advice proved true: perched on that tiny volcanic island off the coast of the frozen continent, I fell in love. Chris and I looked out the drab brown dorm windows to the howling wind tearing snow currents across the vacant white plane, and laughed at our illogical circumstance. We had mirrored Harrison’s preference for impossibly cold, unappealing places, and chased a shadowy illusion to the bottom of the world where we found not solitude, but each other.

Perhaps it is Harrison’s inclination for solitude that makes this collection appeal to the literary man’s man, if there is such a thing. At first glance, it may read like a survivalist manual, filled with endless drives down dusty two-tracks, and thick descriptions of chasing quail. But it is while negotiating his rural heritage that Harrison locates an inextricable relationship between poetry and grouse hunting. Indeed, he is a ruralist who has paid his dues to Hollywood, a food snob who is impressed by a twice fried Midwestern buffet, a savant who finds significance in Minnesota culverts. He avoids sentimentality by embracing the gravity of craziness.

I have come to collect copies of Just Before Dark from dusty piles at garage sales and off rusted carts in basement bookstores. I give them away to friends suffering from the malaise of modernity. If you seek transformation, but find self-help shelves aggressively wholesome, read an essay of this profound book; its advice is as profane as it is sacred. I find it’s best to keep a page of Harrison’s strange honesty tucked in my back pocket at all times, in case of emergency.

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About the author

Rachel hails from the great state of Michigan. She left the Mitten to attend Wesleyan University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Since then, she’s lived in New Mexico, Antarctica, and Alaska. She is passionate about gluten and fried foods. Her favorite form of travel is a good old fashioned road trip, filled with static radio, gas station snacks, and jumping into mysterious bodies of water.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok