Tuesday, January 12, 2010

REVISITING CARMEL

During Christmas holidays when my granddaughter Kimberly visited, we talked about some of the many trips we made traveling from the high desert of Antelope Valley, where she lives, up the California coast to Carmel. We recalled the wonderful times we had climbing rocks near Point Lobos and watching the seals sun on the stony promontories in the Pacific Ocean.


Kimberly was the only family member who accompanied me and my friend Vickie to tour Tor House, the home of the poet Robinson Jeffers, located just south of Carmel. Jeffers, a profound poet who often wrote strident critiques of humankind’s ballooning egotism, built Tor House when Carmel was still wild and stormy, and much of his poetry centers on the sites of Point Sur, Point Lobos, and Pica Blanco. Jeffers’ home was built on ground that was once the site of Carmel Mission, and when he constructed the foundation for a chimney, he found remains of fire pits used by ancient aborigines. Hawk Tower, a 40-ft. tower Jeffers built alongside Tor House, was made of granite lifted from the stones of the Pacific. The tower took Jeffers four years to complete by hand and eventually became the retreat of Una, Jeffers’ wife.

Kimberly was fascinated with this dark house on the rocky coast, particularly the fact that the home was lit by candles for many years. She seemed impressed by the story of Jeffers’ life and the account of his construction of Hawk Tower. When the guide ended our tour in the library, he asked if one of our touring party would read the poem “Tor House,” and Kimberly and Vickie gave me a nudge. I stepped forward and read this poem about the ocean and the “wild sea fragrance of the wind” …and a ghost, “a dark one, deep as the granite.” “You should become a professional reader,” the guide said, and I stepped back. “I write poetry,” I told him, hastily passing on into the lovely garden filled with flowers, including alyssum planted by Una.

In 1948, Robinson Jeffers became unpopular for his views about World War II and man’s inhumanity to man. Those views became the basis for his book of poetry, THE DOUBLE AXE, in which Jeffers predicts the demise of the human race and rages against America’s imperialist actions. Perhaps his life paralleled the wild coast of early Carmel and the craggy rock upon which he built the home hat he gave the Celtic name “Tor.”

This is only a quick sketch about this uncompromised poet who loved the rocky Pacific coast. His poetry resonates with me and inspired me to write a minimalist poem when we visited Point Lobos on that wonderful trip about which Kimberly and I reminisced at Christmas. The poem is taken from my chapbook, SOARING.

BURIAL REQUEST

We pass the grove of Monterrey cedars,
the lighthouse on a jutting precipice
dashed by high waves,
ice plants reddening canyons,
plant blood spilling over ragged crags,
majesty disappearing into the fog.
At Point Lobos
we walk down from the whaler’s cabin
to watch the spit of the sea,
white foam covering dark stone,
and I feel myself moving with the kelp patches,
bladders bobbing in the inlet of Carmel highland,
blades floating above long stalks
attached to reefs of rock,
asking that my ashes be scattered here
where I may dance with the waves,
surrender to ocean’s eternal season.


Photo of me and my daughter Elizabeth, mother of Kimberly,at Carmel Bay, and of Point Lobos, by Vickie Sullivan.
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