Ever since I first read Robinson Jeffers
' poetry, back in the 1970s, I have wanted to visit where he lived in Carmel. He built a stone house, Tor House, and stone Hawk Tower, both overlooking the Pacific. I knew if I ever made it to California this would be a destination I couldn't miss.
So finally, this morning, I fulfilled that long-standing desire. Seeley and I arrived a few minutes late, but didn't miss much. The next hour and a half was truly inspirational. There is too much that occurred, too much that I learned to relate here in this blog. To just stand in the house looking out to the wild Pacific through windows that he looked out from. To walk up the narrow curved stairway, somewhat sideways, leading with the left arm, in Hawk Tower to a higher and wider view of the vast Pacific. To look at titles of books sitting in the book cases. To sit at a window bench and gaze at a few of the trees he had planted decades ago. I could go on and on and on.
One special moment I do want to relate though. The tour guide read some poems of Jeffers throughout the tour. At one point he asked if anyone else would like to read a poem, "Granddaughter" of whom there was a portrait painting of in the room. I immediately volunteered.
And hereís a portrait of my granddaughter Una
When she was two years old: a remarkable painter.
A perfect likeness; nothing tricky nor modernist,
Nothing of the artist fudging his art into the picture,
But simple and true. She stands in a glade of trees with a still inlet
Of blue ocean behind her. Thus exactly she looked then,
A forgotten flower in her hand, those great blue eyes
Asking and wondering.
Now she is five ears old
And found herself, she does not ask any more but commands
Sweet and fierce-tempered; that light red hair of hers
Is the fuse for explosions. When she is eighteen
Iíll not be here. I hope she will find her natural elements,
Laughter and violence; and in her quiet times
The beauty of things Ė the beauty of transhuman things,
Without which we are all lost. I hope she will find
Powerful protection and a man like a hawk to cover her.
When I was finished the guide said, "You read that beauitifully. You must be quite familiar with his work?"
I replied that I am but also that I'm a poet. Later he asked if I'd like to read another poem, but I declined. One was enough. It was a very moving experience for me.
Pictures weren't allowed while on the tour, but I did take a few from outside of the property.
House and wall from behind.
Tor House and Tower from ocean side.
View from the house area.
We left Carmel right after the tour. An almost two hour ride back to the Bay area. Before going back to the house, where I had a reading that evening, we stopped at the Albany Bulb
, a small area jutting out into the bay that was the site of an old landfill, mostly for construction material. After the area was no longer used as a landfill squatters created makeshift homes and others created various pieces of art from found materials.
A few pictures from the walk around the Bulb.
A welcoming presence.
Seeley on the dragon.
Poster for benefit to save the Bulb.
The city is considering removing the artwork and the residents from the Bulb.
This movement reminds me of the Peoples' Park history.
As we wandered around we came to this boxing workout gym.
I found it very curious. Why is this here? We were answered shortly.
This is Bob the boxer, who is the creator of the boxing gym.
He's been living at the Bulb for over a year.
It was an interesting experience going from rich, luxurious Carmel
in the morning to Albany Bulb squatter homesteads late in the day.
At Seeley's house, just before the reading, I drove to the grocery store and when I came back to the car and turned it on a huge roar came from the front of the car. I thought the exhaust system maybe had broken at the front, but when I got back to the house and looked everything over, driving five blocks with a roaring car, I realized a spark plug had blown out of the engine. I've never had something like that happen in all my years of dealing with cars. One possibility, after talking with my son-in-law and looking over everything, was that the spark plug probably had loosened to a point where the compression from the engine when I started the car just blew out the plug. I was hoping that was the case, because the other alternative, maybe a blown engine, might mean the ending of the journey. I didn't have time to deal with the car because the poetry reading at the house was happening soon. So, I tried to put the the issue out of my mind and just be present with what was happening.
A small turnout, but again, as usual, the numbers don't matter. It was a fulfilling evening of connecting with individuals, sharing poetry, stories and discussions about life, travels and intentions.
So, I went to bed thinking about the car, wondering if the journey would be aborted a little more than half way through.
A little after 7 AM I went out to deal with the car problem. It turned out that I was able to reinstall the spark plug and that took care of the problem. Whew.
I made plans to meet Sheila, an acquaintance from New York who lives in San Francisco and attended the reading last night. She was going to be my tour guide for a walking tour of San Fran, from the Embarcadero, to Coit Tower, North Beach and Chinatown. I took the BART from Berkeley and we met in the bright sunny morning at the Ferry Terminal. The walk lasted about five hours and I saw many places that have been special to me from a distance.
Farmer's market amidst palm trees at the Embarcadero.
Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill.
We walked up Filbert Steps to get to the tower.
A banana tree just off to the side of the steps.
A small segment of the steps.
One of the houses on the hillside along Filbert Steps.
Alcatraz, with Columbus in the foreground.
Part of the wonderful murals in the tower painted,
when the tower was first built, by artists through
the New Deal Public Works of Art Project.
Have never seen a coal fired pizza place.
Sheila modeling a hat at Goorim Bros. hat shop. They've been
family owned and operated since the first store opened in 1895.
At Caffe Trieste, another landmark. Many of the Beat writers
and artists of that time period met here. Opened in 1956.
Besides Hawk Tower and Tor House, this was the other
place I had to visit while in CA, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City
Sitting in the Poet's Chair in the poetry section of City Lights.
One of the famous pictures of Beat luminaries.
Another landmark, Vesuvio's, just across Kerouac Alley from
the book store.
A mural in the alley.
One of the many quotes on the alley floor.
Grant Street, Chinatown.
An enchanting five hours of soaking up a bit of San Fran history and culture.
Sheila was a great guide, both with information and flowing conversation.
After goodbyes with Seeley at the house I drove northeast from the Bay area
to Davis, CA to visit more old friends from NY, Nick and Jes and their two boys,
Luca and Sebastian. The Pacific coast was now behind me. I've made the turn toward
the east, the turn back, in due time, to home.
A pleasant day visiting with my friends in Davis, CA. I've known Nick
for a long time. He grew up in Hammonsport, NY and has traveled and
lived widely in the years since I've known him. Jes is a native Californian
and the family has lived both in NY and CA.
We took a pleasant, informative walk at the UC Davis arboretum.
72 year-old Redwood, 62 year-old poet.
A grove of redwoods was planted here in 1941.
Luca in contemplation.
Western Scrub Jay.
After the arboretum walk we sat outside for brunch at the
Delta of Venus. Good food, great atmosphere. When we walked
off to the car I realized the place doesn't have a name sign
anywhere to be seen, from the outside anyway. Didn't seem to
need one as it was very packed when we arrived.
Southern Pacific train station. Mission-style, built in 1913.
A 1928 Lincoln Highway marker on a street right near where my friends live. First transcontinental
road in America.
Had a wonderful day with the family. Relaxing, laid back, and quality time catching up on our lives.