Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Friday dreaming

My wife will attend a seminar in Monterey Friday, so I'm taking the day off to tag along for the fun of it. While I don't have firm plans there are many things I love doing in the Big Sur / Carmel / Monterey area, of which I'm sure I'll include these two:

Robinson Jeffers' Tor House and Hawk Tower
Picture source

It has been at least ten years since I last toured Robinson Jeffers' Tor House. While enjoying much of his work, his poem "The Bed by the Window" had never really moved me until I stood in the guest room and looked out of that window by that bed:

I chose the bed downstairs by the sea-window for a good death-bed
When we built the house; it is ready waiting,
Unused unless by some guest in a twelvemonth, who hardly suspects
Its latter purpose. I often regard it,
With neither dislike nor desire; rather with both, so equalled
That they kill each other and a crystalline interest
Remains alone. We are safe to finish what we have to finish;
And it will sound rather like music
When the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky
Thumps his staff, and calls thrice: "Come, Jeffers."

The other stop, just down Highway 1, is the Henry Miller Memorial Library:

Picture source

The only two books of Miller's that I have read and enjoyed were Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch and The Books in My Life. Yet when I can I always stop at the little library that bears his name, not for the bookshop or memorabilia but to enjoy the atmosphere and nearby views of the Big Sur coastline. So despite the forecast for rain, I'm planning on a grand day out. That evening look for the guy, just in from hiking, in the hotel bar enjoying the view and reading Baroja.

I'll end with The Answer from Jeffers:

Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one's own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history... for contemplation or in fact...
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.

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