Poetry & Prose

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Landscapes

 

+ Pop (Charles Richard) had grown up in the Bronx, Mom (Dorothy Mack Eberhardt, RIP at 96) in Pacific Grove, California. I stayed there briefly at five (in 1946) while with an Uncle while dad finished divinity school back at Union Theological (rt. Name?)  in New York City ( I think he had also attended New York University). I would always treasure memories of this fabulous area of California (not to mention- my first funeral- that of grandfather Silas Mack). Two of my Uncles, Arthur and Franklin had been quite the wild ones- w Uncle Franklin shown in a photo from the teens driving a tin lizzie that he had backed up the Library steps- and far outdone by Uncle Arthur who had actually crashed a plane- a bi plane I suppose in town- supposedly carrying the MGM lion back to L.A.? (my mother;’s version). Arthur had given my grandfather fits- at one point stealing a car and being shot at- committing some petty burglaries, etc. Uncle Wilfred became a landscape gardener (541 Pine St.- now condominiums) and the loamy smell inside his greenhouse will always be sharp in my memory, with certain scenes seared onto memory's template as if, as it happens in childhood, as if deeply engraved…… as if the synapses or template or computer grid (whatever it is in the brain that records), having more youthful "juice" (or electrical current?), records deeper. That lozenge of swaying green, roan, yellow and blue through the rectangular glass of the glass bottom boats which put out of this small seaside village into Monterey bay. You saw the same scenes in tanks at the local aquarium (now the aquarium is so much more elaborate), scenes colored in the "mind's eye" in the iridescence of abalone shell (mother of pearl).

 

        My father sent us postcards with the colored photos of flowers on the front, that along with Uncle’s gardens and greenhouses gave my childhood an overwhelming sense of flowers- the different ones, the colors. It made me want botannical books when I became a collector of books.

 

We spent hours collecting the different colored starfish from tide pools- or watching strawberry colored anemonies.   I have strong memories of the ochre/ orange, the red starfish, somebody tell me what other colors? that we collected as kids from the in-exhaustable mystery of the tide pools or swimming out to the float off the beach and diving among the giant kelp, the scenes from the (now  discontinued?) glass bottom boats that put out from Lovers' Point. For me, this was Proust's madeleine and I can not stop clicking my mental camera and collecting the memories into a mental scrapbook. To a five year old, Pacific Grove had been a universe of the exotic, swept by the bracing tang of the nearby sea or the scent of eucalyptus leaves- there was a favorite smell of humus in Uncle’s greenhouse gardens , whenever I encountered it and eucalyptus or bay later in life it would transfix me back in time to the streets of P.G.  my Uncle's glass palaces with their rows and rows of sharp scented  (were they mums?) and dazzling begonias and staghorn ferns. It hung in the back of my mind like the “Rosebud” brand sled that Citizen Kane sees in the movie just before he dies (he remembers it from his childhood).  These greenhouses were my equivalent of the Tah Mahals- exotic as India or Bali. One recurring scene (along with the aquarium): a side street with eucalyptus, the way the leaves littered the curb like so many fingernail parings. I believe the scent of eucalyptus is a way for the tree to repel certain insects. A eucalyptus leaf, crushed between the fingers, creates, like Bay Rum tree leaves (Virgin Islands) , a marvelous fragrance! And then the Bay leaves littering the road among the redwoods at Mt. Hermon, Calif. (above Santa Cruz). It was and still is a religious retreat.  Grandfather had a cabin there and there were some marvelous swimming holes in the ? (somebody help me) river- but I don’t remember anything about the religious stuff.

     

Mom, Grandma at Mt. Hermon religious retreat- Mt. Hermon, Calif. photo by an Uncle? 19 teens? reminds of Mary Cassatt

           

           Was the marine scientist friend of John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, still alive nearby? Was John Steinbeck? (this 1946) My grand father had, as a lawyer,  had  some kind of negative dealings w  Steinbeck, something, mom says, about unpaid bills?  Mom heard the different whistles of the canneries calling their workers.  The old aquarium/museum had -behind glass "dioramas" I guess you'd call them-  the life you could see if you took the glass bottom boat ride from lover's point looking down into the Monterey Bay- ochres, roans, yellows, sand- the same colors exemplified by the abalone shell once stripped of meat- a subdued majesty- not gaudy but still- pearlescent, opalescent fabulous colors. The present aquarium is a major museum Ed Ricketts would be proud of- pumping over a million gallons of water (a year?) in from the bay to sustain over 35,000 (?) species of flora and fauna- a major stop off point for tourists where once I hunted star fish. A machine produced surge recreates the bay's ecosystem for the aquarium- 2,000 gallons a minute (?) where I could spy World War 2 subs coming in and out of the bay from the Capt's watch on my grandfather's house, from which I would hear the artillery practice from Ft. Ord across the bay. (My life has been nothing but war- in a "warfare state"- a military-industrial complex.

 

            Mother remembers a shanty town of Chinese roughly where the present aquarium stands. One night was it set a fire? It burnt down- had this been a racist act? Every town has its dark side. Of course, to my God fearing grandparents- the seamy and delightful characters in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row were dark side enough- the ones who lived in the giant culvert  and drank all the time and partied w  Doc Ricketts- God bless their randy souls. Then, too, when I was there, there was the endless sound of artillery practice going on at Fort Ord across the bay and various subs and warships and an occasional whale in Monterrey Bay you could spy from Grandfather Mack’s balcony- his now wonderfully kept up house had once belonged to a sea captain, the story goes….something about a rope ladder up the side so he could sneak in at night?

 

 We would throw Uncle's begonias out into the road to see how they looked when cars drove over them, reds and whites mashed into the dark blue asphalt; once we lost (or more probably threw) a rubber ball up into the top of a palm, up over the crown of fronds where you could never retrieve it or see it again (also already mentioned). Is it still there?  Every snack of "fritos" takes me back to the first time I had them on a picnic out in the dunes amidst the ice plant near Asilomar and the old Del Monte glass manufacturing plant. These same dunes undoubtedly lingered in my mother's memories, taking her back into the teens (the 20's) for she had been attacked there by a masked rapist. She never would divulge the whole of this incident although I gathered this monster had not gotten very "far" with her (for what reason?) (she never wanted to talk about it) (in our times he'd be a serial killer and mom'd been eventually located in a shallow grave and I'd have never seen the light of day!). California had plenty of psychos even back then! She tells me her mom had warned her to be careful of the cavalry soldiers (were these the black Buffalo soldiers? then stationed at Monterey). I’m sure there have been violent happenings between the races going back to the Spanish and the  ?  Indians of 16 ? .

 

        I returned to California in 2000 to attend Cathy’s Uncle Eugene's 80th birthday party. He had hired the boat that ferries every day between Newport Beach and Catalina for Saturday night the 16th. We flew into San Francisco and rented a car going to Monterey and Pacific Grove for the afternoon of the 14th and morning of the 15th, then heading on down Rte.1 through Big Sur from Carmel on the afternoon of the 15th. For me it was a paradise of memories- of Pacific Grove when I was 5 in 1946 and spent roughly a year living at Uncle Wilfred's on Pine (later moved to 315 nd in 1960 when I was a sophmore at Oberlin College and worked for a summer helping Uncle W in his landscape gardening business- one garden overlooked the south end of the Pebble Beach golf course.

          The golf course, the Point Pinos light, Asilomar- these were all burnt into my memory- not to mention Carmel, Big Sur and the 17 Mile Drive. I had worked on the gardens of several homes there, putting in lawns, sweeping the driveways, watering fuchsias, etc. Is there no book on the plants of these gardens? There was one on the plants native to Calif. in the mid coast region- but I know there are other flowers that prosper there but art not native- the are from other ecosystems that thrive in coastal mist and fog- the ice plant, the fuchsias, the orange and lemon trees, the begonias, bougainvillea, palms, a strange and marvelous region, I’m sure that by now someone has photographed the area artistically in a way that it deserves to be- back then there were the Ansel Adams and Westons w their black and white stuff- but this land demands color. And some one has undoubtedly written about the ecosystem and the native and the imported plants,

 

There is something wonderful in the air,  the light, the fog around Pacific Grove, the cypress of course, the town itself, surely one of the most beautiful and dramatic in the world! ,that gives me enormous hope. Mainly, it is the same light you get on the Maine coast- sun reflected from the sea- that makes everything velvety and glistening and spring like, even in the winter- a special, painters’ light.  You who live there- don’t take it for granted, which I’m sure- at the price you pay for it- you don’t!. But at one time, it was just another sleepy, frontier town. What it has is, as they say in the real estate market- “location!, location! Location!”

 

My first creative writing (other than an irretrievably lost diary of one of the folks summer cross country trips with the Airstream trailer) in 1960 concerned walking my Grandfather's second wife to church- youth and age and how self conscious I was.To be ashamed of the old? Why? America does not treat the oldest among us very well. Youth is always the rage

 

I experienced my first awareness of human cruelty on the little beach beside Lovers Point in Pacific Grove when some kids threw rocks at me from the wall at the top of the cliff as I sat below in the sand. Why?  O, you know, just for the evil heck of it.

 

On the other side of the ledger- that trumpet line stepping off and up in Bach's 2nd Brandenburg Concerto which I first heard from the back of a church at the Bach Festival at Carmel...I sat up to attend (D.H. Lawrence's word about the Taos landscape). It riveted me. It dawned on me that such things were possible. The trumpet seemed to beckon. In 2004 I met the current President or Chairperson of the Board of the Bach Festival at a concert by “Pro Musica Rara” in Towson, Md.- must get some programs from her- if she has any old ones!  

       Had I been truly prescient  (not likely at the age of 6?) I'd have searched out Wynn Bullock in his photography studio at Monterey, or maybe looked up the Westons or Ansel Adams down the coast in Carmel and gotten a photographic image from them when they were cheap! One that would have increased in value from, say, the $50 I paid for it (yes, a lot of money then) to, say, $5,000 in the year 2000! Oh, and by the way, dream on. Or maybe I'd have dropped in on Robinson Jeffers and commissioned a poem; I'd have found him walking on the beach near his stone castle (Tor?), under that lone cypress and tell him: "I'm going to be a poet myself later on, could you write out a little poem for me to keep and treasure when I grow up!" I love Jeffers’ negative outlook. The environmental crises will bear him out. “Shine perishing republic” he says, and one wonders what environmental depredations threaten the present Pacific Grove. Are there any sardines left? How are the abalones doing? The sea otters?

 

 I would accompany Uncle Wilfred Mack collecting jasper and jade and rhodomite down on the beaches of the Big Sur coast (some of them quite a scramble to get to). He was a "rock hound" whose garage doubled as a shed with trays and trays of cut trough stones- agates and other semi-precious stone. He would put on a visored helmet and saw the stones into ring sized lozenges, he would cut through to find the "scenes" in the stones- scenes  that sometimes looked like sea weeds underwater. The sound of the saw and the smell of the dust and the spray from the water cooling the operation stays with me, deep inside the synapses. Surely this was fabulous enough.

 

On my later visit- in 2000- C and I stopped at Point Lobos, where mom and dad had honeymooned, then drove down coastal Route One, thinking of Robinson Jeffers and Henry Miller. I could see why people wanted to build in remote parts of Big Sur- which almost seems of another planet- it is so rugged. The quiet there, as you drive up a lonely road zig-zagging to the ridge, along a creek in redwoods is staggering. The only cliffs comparable that I know are Kuaii's Na Pali coast ( there are surely others in the world). A good place to come if you had a terminal illness- a place accepting of ruthless nature. The Esalen Institute attests to this spiritual side of the Big Sur. Somehow I don’t think of Henry Miller as spiritual- but then, I haven’t read him at all- how would I know?  Are the mansions along the 17 Mile Drive are  the MOST desirable locations in the world (and their prices reflect it, right?)- they are built in the midst of utmost beauty (and some, quite obviously, ruin it – some seem models of conspiculous consumption or the runination of what should be preserved for everybody). Even at that I had the thought that, were I fortunate enough to run an art or photograph gallery in Carmel, still, probably,  I would be unhappy and wish I was elsewhere.

 

 

Rainy, foggy days in Maine, Pacific Grove¼

Like Maine rock rose coasts, Wyeth coasts,

These areWeston coasts - ice planted,

Befuchsiaed 17 mile Drive, Carmel,

Point Lobos, sea lions thought to be wolves

By the Spanish explorers because of their barking,

Sepia, brown silver toned Weston photos-

My Camera on Pt. Lobos,

Whale skeleton beached below the cypress,

Point Joe and the lighthouse,

Steinbeck’s n’er do wells trekking on up

Carmel Valley, hunting frogs for Ed Ricketts,

And Joan Baez clear peace voice out over that valley

And over Big Sur like a benison-

Great coast bears of Calif  long gone

Like local tribes, Yampa, Ono,

What is left? Beached dried starfish,

The whale vertebrae, kelp whip lashes,

Only Jeffers’ tower at Tor?

Because it is stone.

 picnic out near Asilomar- 17 Mile Drive, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Calif.- photo by an Uncle? was this painted by Seurat? Imagine being dressed up like this for the beach?!?!?

                                                       

                                                         North Carolina

 

Another Ur-text landscape: my more formative, somewhat less exotic base of growing up was Davidson, North Carolina, (from '46 or so until '54). Home to Davidson College where dad taught such courses as "The Geography of the Bible", or "The Philosophy of Religion" Because it was a college town, it had an ordered, quaint, calm, classy, classical beauty other N.C. towns lacked. It had the same sad racism as the others, however, blacks lived on one side of the tracks, whites another.

 

We slept on a second story screened porch from which one could hear baying coon dogs deep in the night. Mock civil war battles were fought once a year and other memories associated with a college burned themselves into our memories, the smell of a friend's father's chem lab, the colors of discarded football game tickets. Years later taking a piss in the basement of the new Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the smell of a deodorant puck in the urinal brought back clearly, like Proust's madeleine, the sugary, fresh smell of bubble gum from childhood. A certain forest green color was always for me the color of a prized yo yo. That dragged with it the deep delight of collecting bubble gum cards. American history was one category, with a card for Andrew Jackson and was it the battle of New Orleans?, or there was a western movie stars series with the highly desirable Lash Larue. The bubble gum smell and the luscious colors of the surfaces of the cards dredged up, the particular, special, glistening, shiny, dark green color of that new Duncan yo-yo. I bought a Toyota Corolla car in 1998 that had this forest green, mixed with blue so you couldn't hardly tell whether the car was blue or green. Mainly it was green, a wonderful dark green- I think they call it teal. Another early memory- they painted a class room in elementary school chartreuse!

 

It has been said that masturbation is the poor man or the thinking man's television. These were years before television but I provided myself with many scenes, masturbating bu f  king my pillow before I could even ejaculate as I spun out a serial tale of Belle Starr's daughter or other cowgirls or perhaps Brunnhilde style valkyries who had houses with trees growing up through. I even put diapers over the pillows to make them softer. Of what was this the sign?

        Sometimes, pop would invite students from his classes over and show slides he had taken on a 1953 trip to the "Holy Land" (he'd been made a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society for these projects, one of his proudest achievements). The sharp chemical odor of hot light whooshing out of the air cooled slide projector sticks with me like the smell of ultra violet...and with that the sandpapery iridescent granules of white on the screen once unrolled. Pop had taken pictures in Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Greece, roads Christ had walked, etc. but his images of the rose red desert city of Petra stood out. You can only enter Petra through a long winding chasm in the rock, like canyons in "the maze" in Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. Petra is similar, "slick rock" country. The Romans cut their architecture into the rock at Petra, as fabulous as Mesa Verde, Colorado or Palenque in Mexico. These hidden cities lodged back in the mind's deepest recesses as if they were already there, the allure and adventure of them as strong as certain books like "Treasure Island" or "King Solomon's Minds" or the island caverns of "The Black Stallion". Why do boys, and some men, yearn for such lost cities?

 

In 1999, I started developing Pop's slides into photos and making an album of them. It was a sort of long delayed tribute, I was seeing things again through his eyes. I wrote the Royal Geographic Society and they told me that one could become a member if nominated by two other members. The pictures were beautiful and in one, pop lay on the sand as if dying of thirst- joking around with his photos the same way I would joke in photos later on.

 

I remember a lecture Pop gave me about women, after I had been out riding horseback with my friend Barbara Reed (Reid) (the Service Station owner’s daughter?- see Jim Puckett’s glorious book on Davidson- Olin, Oskeegum, and Gizmo) and returned with my face smeared with her lipstick- I never forgot riding behind her on that horse. “A woman is like a rose”, he told me, trying to instill that upright, righteous, honorable approach. I was far more likely to learn the philosophy inherent in such immortal lines as  “Lady of Spain I adore you, down on the floor o you wh re you” or the verse we sang at Mount Hermon, where they made fun of me because I had taken a Ms. Winterbottom to the senior prom- my first blind, ejaculatory date: “O this is # one and the fun has just begun, pick me up and lay me down and do it again”! 

 

There was a conglomerate of asphalt like a rock called a clinker used in driveways (or what was it used for?) back then that you could turn into a “clinker egg” by pouring certain chemicals on it that would hollow out a landscpe of fantastic colors- like the dyes one sees in oil in puddles. These are the sorts of things that are unforgettable to me, whereas in Puckett’s book, he has extraordinary recall about many of his interchanges with other kids.

 

                                            A Nostalgia Trip back to Davidson, N.C.

 

I made a pilgrimage back to Davidson in 1992?, one destination being Egg Rock, another mysterious and deeply engraved memory icon. The Egg was a cabin sized boulder shaped like an egg and precariously balanced on another couple of rocks in the woods off Rocky River Road, some five miles east of town. Called "erratics", these smoothish, rounded boulders had been pushed to their places and left by advancing (or retreating?) glaciers. I don’t think they went much further south.

 

I discovered that the rock, sadly, was no longer there and I tried to track down what had happened to it. It turns out it WAS there, just no longer perched the way it used to be. Like other memories of the past it kept out cropping along the brain's tracks of synapse bursts. A letter I wrote to the Charlotte Observer turned into a charming article by Pat Gubbins that started some balls rolling towards a solution to the rock's mysterious demise.

 

Ms. Gubbin's article, headlined "Riddle of Egg Rock puzzles ex-Davidsonian" was followed by another in which she interviewed a Davidson professor Dr. David Grant in an article entitled "Egg Rock lore is on a roll, but stone rests near old site."  The rock had tragically "disappeared" in '72 and the professor gave a good accounting of what may have happened: either it slid off because of heavy rain or had been levered or dynamited off by "pranksters". I had jokingly surmised that the aliens who had left the rock there may have come back to claim it or that the rock had something to do with Elvis Presley.

 

Pat had stated in her first article that I wanted to hear from persons having knowledge of the rock, and I was thrilled to receive a snapshot from a Ms. Helen Mayer of Charlotte which showed the rock as it had been those thousands of years. The snapshot included someone leaning against a neighboring boulder so that I could tell the rock egg to be some 40' wide x's 20' high.

 

Ms. Mayer wrote me a charming note: "Hope this is one of the ways you remember it. We have a picture with our son and friend climbing to arrow pt. by way of tree that swung over."


          As I had remembered the Egg it was bigger than the photo showed and there were more trees around it but now I shall always remember it a la Ms. Mayer (the lady who sent the photo), and her son standing triumphantly atop the Egg! That was something all we kids wondered: could you somehow get to the top of the Egg, having climbed it like Everest?

 

The Davidson trip set me pondering about old friends and other childhood happenings which remained so sharp in the brain (do they race around like the circuits in a computer, firing off now and then as they leap a particular gap? and why do certain memories surface as if from no where?).

 

Now that I could finally "see" the rock again in the photo, it would not bother me so much, wondering what happened. I could put it to rest. The boulder looked almost light in the photo, like a pea some submerged giant lying under the leaves is holding on his lips. But it was sad the rock was no longer there. It seemed a monument to a nature that was not only awesome, but also playful, delightful. It was sad to think that malicious persons may have dynamited it to fall. I preferred to think on the bright side. I had been able to return to Davidson and , despite failing to get together with old friends, at least I was able to find out what had happened to the Egg.

 

         In the second article, Professor Grant even offered to "take someone in there if they wanted to find the actual site".

 

It had been a clear, cool, bright and blue day as I tramped around in the woods trying to find the rock. I had been able to "go home again" if ever so slightly.

 

One day out jogging back home a woman passed me with a sweat shirt that read on the back, "Nothing behind me matters". Not so with the past, we remember it constantly, especially the good parts. My childhood had been happy and I was able to walk up Woodland Street with warm memories swarming through and around me. Long forgotten thoughts welled up, where had they been stored? I discover a memory I haven't had in awhile and it brings forth a whole another subset of memories I'd forgotten. My favorite or usual memories change over time. Certain faces will swim across my "mind's eye", old girl friends, companions, and memory seems to make music of our pasts, constantly playing it back, constantly reworking it into new variations.

 

Tragic memories also lurked, of my boyhood companion, Jimmy Woods who died in the Vietnam war, an old girl friend now undergoing a painful divorce, maybe native Americans had performed human sacrifices at the rock, etc.

 

         I had attended a crafts show in Baltimore where one of the exhibitors displayed many different baskets and wreaths, some made from the very same vines you found hanging from trees around the Egg and generally throughout the south. Do these vines bloom, I asked her, knowing that vines, like wisteria, can have the most heavenly flowers. They do, she told me, but you're not likely to see the blooms because they are small and occur way up, high in the canopy (like the spiky, water-colory pink bromeliads or pale ghost orchids?). I thought, they're like the Dutch Man's Pipe vine flowers native to Jamaica, deadly poisonous or incredibly hallucinogenic or healing (in my fantasies since I don't really know this plant biologically). I see them high, high, out of reach and out of view, rarer than rare, in a wonderfully pale shade of white-violet!

 

Two of the most salient connections to the past came out of the landscapes of Pacific Grove and Davidson: one, that precursor of the phonograph- my grandfather had one- a machine that played large metal discs like a music box (it WAS a large music box- what name?) by plucking little holes cut into the disc- anyway- he had Souza marches and great opera arias (did you know that Souza was a student of Offenbach’s?); two, the square dancing and reels we learned as kids in North Carolina- a direct throw back to European dancing of old. Of course, Ms. Berg’s piano lessons at Davidson and the singing we did at Mt. Hermon- these had the greatest influence. At one piano recital in Davidson, I was to play one of the Bach 2 part inventions. The recital was being held at our house on Woodland. I had been out playing with my brothers- we would eroll ourselves up in the hammock and then two others would twirl the hammock over and over in ever more speedy fashion- highly dangerous were you to fall out. I fell out. I began the piece, halted, then passed out! I had had a concussion and spent the next fifteen or so minutes upstairs in a room out cold- waiting for Dr. Woods, I suppose- also mentioned in Puckett’s book..

 

                                            Maryland- Mataponi Creek

As beeyuteefull as this looks- this creek was filled w blooms of invasive algae- you had to paddle hard to get thru it- the bay is fished out- it will not be restored- human kind will greedily destroy itself- fortunately- after I'm gone....


nearby cypress swamp- one of the furthest north ones

 

 

Memories of later, youthful years in Maryland also haunted me, and since I lived here I could track them down much more easily than the Egg.

 

Memory, which can be sharp as myrrh or frankinsense yet erases itself as it goes along, (thankfully)...sometimes like pentimento (the paintings they discover under old paintings). I might head south into Anne Arundel County to jog or ride a bike on weekends...the old Baltimore to Annapolis railroad right of way had been made into a recreational bike or hiker/jogger's path, roughly paralleling the Ritchie highway  and later interstate 97. Similarly, Baltimore County had made over the old "North Central" railroad right of way into a wonderful path covered with a hard pack of crushed white stone, running along the Gunpowder River for several miles and then up to the Pennsylvania line and beyond to York, Pa. (I had taken the train on this route with my father before it was discontinued in the late fifties, early sixties; it was the same route Lincoln had taken to Gettysburg. The railroad's crushed blue stone still lined the strip of white and most of the original bridges remained. Indian trails lay obliterated in the woods near the river no doubt. The old road to York ran the same way and alongside it the newer interstate 83. Perhaps at one time Indians used the river for transportation, although I suspect it had been too shallow (it now rose and fell according to the waterflow let out of the upper Prettyboy Reservoir down to the lower Loch Raven Reservoir).

 

Running the Baltimore County track was like archaeology in my mind for I had many memories associated with near by spots, my folks having lived in various houses near the river from '56 until '74. I had first become acquainted with the river at age 15 and not gotten that far away from it 'til age 40 when I stopped going out to run along it. I knew its good swimming holes, the bridges over it, etc. Once I dreamed about that long white line of trail, a slow incline up to the Pennsylvania state line with long straight stretches and no sharp curves...tracks that went somewhere once, the tracks removed...tribes commemorated in name only: Patapsco, or animals as in Panther Branch...our names will only get similar treatment if we are lucky enough to be remembered similarly as in, "O, yes, that cellar hole was the Eberhardt house".

 

Mnemnosyne, goddess of memory, mother of muses, "waker of longing" said ?, longing perhaps for the fabulous truths which we may even have known once but have lost since they "slipped through the seams" of memory by accident. We try to bring up fond memories or even dredge up (for our psychiatrists) meaningful bad memories. Maybe they will help us reach some self understanding. What if you could remember your own birth? I assume that had quite an influence...but if it's forgotten how could it? There are treasures in our own brains worthy of a Howard Carter when he first peered into King Tut's tomb (he said, “I see gold things”) or John Lloyd Stevens when he first saw the Mayan ruins of Palenque. We could arrive at memories that are as important (to us) as are the maps to treasures but, strive as we might to discover in our pasts the equivalents of whole cultures like Copan or Ankor Wat lost in jungles, often as not we arrive at brief, dream like riddles. It is good that we forget; we wouldn't want to remember everything.


 

       STEPS DOWN TO THE SEVERN

 

 Why should steps down to the water

 Mean anything?

 

 What is the

 Gate without shadows?

 

 Odor of water, of

 Memory..."ich vergisse", I forget.

 

 Mnemosyne: gate without shadows.

 

Vladamir Nabakov has written wonderfully about these sorts of memories in Speak Memory.

 

               

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a report from the front
>
>
> The skinks, the newts, the Allegheny hellbender whose range
> Has shrunk up next to nothing, Chesapeake Bay
> Thad I'd put up there beside Maine/ California coast- athough
> a gentler beauty-
> The shore not of rock but rather oaks and hollies
>
> Has also been diminished thanks to new pirates-
> Same species as John Smith who saw
> We lived with bounty,us homos not sapien "Knowing" but
> Homos unkowing- new pirates - the developers,
>
> Overfishers (I guess they didn't know better?)- it's us!- just like
> The tribes who warred before us- Susquehannocks, Cecil Calvert...
> Squabbling about Kent Island - all this history
> You were never taught- and so much more to uncover...
>
> You think ELF* wrong to blow up radio towers, was anyone  hurt?
> Let's stand besides the species that were lost today!
> Earth Liberation Front!-that's it: spring peepers, tree frogs send
 Their message in unison--"You asshole humans mark "THE END!"     *Earth Liberation Front  
 
                                                
Mark Catesby- Rockfish (could this b the Md. Chesapeake rockfish? I thought that was striped?

                                              

                                                                     Vermont 

                                 Green Mtn. State- Vt. near Randolph- Rochester?

 

Perhaps my greatest Ur-text landscap was of Vermont- my first (and sappiest)  poem described it: “Vermont with her beautiful mountains of green…/ Vermont with her lovely mountain streams. /Those quaint old villages set back in the hills, /The rolling clover meadows,/The birds’ pretty trills,/The clanging of cowbells still rings in my ears/ And I know these memories were my happiest years. But memories are not years! 

 

         Sandgate, Vermont; I revisited this to me mythical land of my childhood in May of 1996. Sandgate, Vt. is a valley near the town of Arlington in the southwest corner of the state, up from Bennington. My father's father had a summer place there and my Aunt, Helen, the one who comitted suicide lived there with her husband Ray during the time that I attended prep school at Mt. Hermon. I had memories of visiting from before that, when we would stop at Sandgate on our way to our summer place at W. Newbury.

 

It was an idyllic summer retreat but came to be more darkly tinged, after my winter visits there on vacation from Mt. Hermon and especially after Helen died. The story goes that Ray was actually my grandfather's mistress's son. Helen committed suicide as had her mother before her. Reason given was post menopausal depression. Helen had had bouts of it before her death. Did it run in the family? Had Ray abused her? Was she upset at his "playing around". I had a poem about Helen's funeral from the early days of my poetry. 


         Fragment: something about the sound of the word fuhn and the feel of that weather from Switzerland, is it at the end of winter, lots of fog, then something about the sound of apples being graded and the idea of the bottom of her grave being awash with that sound and the body carried away by the water table, also the sound of pebbles and small stones rumbling down the Green River, same as the sound of that fast movement in Franck`s violin sonata or the Beethoven Op. 95 string quartet, last movement, a rushing away, sound always made by time and life passing by if you listen closely enough

 

Sound time makes, a

Rushing away like

Crossing bells heard

From the train

As it goes by/

Red shift or blue

Dopplers, and

Green River at

Sandgate, how it

Always sounded, time sound

In memory, you can

Almost hear it,

 

How Sandgate looked

As remembered, how

It looks as

I drive back

Into it, the valley

In Vermont where

Aunt Helen

Killed herself and

Little cem-

etary up on

The hill, yes, hill-

sides

Are brooding,

 

Even spring

Somewhat dark

In Vermont,

Darkly beautiful,

Dark green, then

Apple green, milk green

Of the river

And ever so

Cheerful

Light green of new leaves, O,

 

Helen was buried in the little cemetery on the hill above the simple New England box style church about half way up the valley. Some day I promised to visit her grave, in the same vein as I would visit Rakmaninov's... on a brooding, stormy day, a day with sun all but wiped out by rain clouds and with lots of wind!

 

Sandgate had affected me deeply. It took on a mythic, ur text, sublime quality in the memory, it was one of the deepest, most recurring, like some great rock outcropping, granite. Physically, the valley is momentous, a deep, Vermont valley carved out by the rushing Green River. Steep high mountain barricades line both sides. The valley seemed hemmed in by these high ridges, closed in, thus was somewhat gloomy. As a child I always wanted to go to the tops, and occasionally did, only to see the next valleys, as it is everywhere in Vermont.

 

I remembered it in sun, darkly appealing as the sex I went through the motions about with my same age cousin Carol. I remembered it in the brooding Vermont winter, since I went there on winter vacations from Mt. Hermon. I had fond winter memories of skiing, using Uncle Ray's old skis, at nearby Bromley, but also on various hills and old roads in the valley.

 

Fragments towards a geography of memory (so many of these occur in Vermont): roads to the top of the ridge, Carol's daughter whom we visit briefly in '66, Mary Helen and her mother's dark, seductive Italianate look, house run down, threatening nature of the hills, looming nature, Bret Harte, "The Luck of Roaring Camp", the mixture of lust, death, along with the rushing Green River, the sound of that rush, everything carried away, swept away always, road behind Mt. Equinox going all the way to Manchester..., past Beartown, where road becomes impassable to cars, how one approaches the valley, shivering with delicious anticipation (at last, after all the driving of the day, one is coming upon something momentous, something meaningful.

 

If I were religious, these places and the memories of the bodies of women would be my temples. More so than the Rumi/ Khayam sufiism or "Cold Mountain"/Peter Mathiessen influenced zen, two mystical "religions" I would claim were I pressed to claim particular religions as my own.

 

          

           trip to visit brother Tim, Randolph Vt., 6/9- again, we visit the Vermont Verde Antique quarry in Rochester Vt., only location where you can get this green granite/marble- often used for counter tops- a very dark, brittle, forest green stone- extremely hard, extremely bittle- I sneak behind the "No Trespassing" signs at the gate and take one shot of two enormous blocks, one atop the other- like a Miro, Ernst, Moore, Noguchi sculpture. The quarry only opens once and awhile- on demand. If this isn't the green mtn. state, what is?    

                                                                                     Maine

Lake Chesuncook

boulder at lakeside- Lake Chesuncook, ME



  beach at Ogunquit. ME

This poem written a bit further north- midcoast where Ms. Hannaman had a wonderful home overlooking the Martinsville Beach (where NC did his masterful "Cannibal Shores") near Tenant's Harbor Maine, at Mosquito Point. Maine is special like Big Sur and Carmel- rugged....not like the gentle Chesapeake.

Of course the poem veers off into Hawaii (Kuai) and Taos and the Rockies, as well.... I haave written quite a few National Geographic poems- place means a lot!

   

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SPECIAL

 

            Someone kept watering petunias?

            On the glassed in front porch

            Of the summer house (but

            It was fall- no one there!)

            `til they shone like pink beacons

            In the fog weeks when the horn's

            On all the time telling

            `bout rock ledges and waves

            And blue spruce keep

            Crusting and breaking.

 

            Bantams screech after

            Waialeale Forest storms,

            Sharp orange,

            Gleaming rust with red wattles,

            They display their chrome bibs.

 

            How you painted suns onto

            Your face for the corn

            Celebration, how you adjusted

            Your head band, that one dance

            "Of the women" (only they

            Know your true name)

            But I know it!

 

            We follow shamans to

            The stone wheels high up

            In the Sawtooths, the Siskyous;

            We watch daggers

            Of sun sink down a cliff face

            At solstice, sink into

            The spiral we carved there

            Beyond First Mesa, beyond Taos...

the fabulous artists that have "done" Maine: Crotty, Kent, Wyeths 1,2,3, Homer, Goldberg, Marin, Porter, Ruroatorua (sp)

 

.

                                  

 

 

above:  dave's garden- a favorite shot w favorite flowers- ageratum and morning glory- thanks for the rainy spring in 2009!!!!

tobacco flower- taken at Jamestown- to me this stands for America- a beautiful yet poisonous sotweed


below: Uk- that greeny island- shot from train window going north to Lake Country- notice sheep- seems to give element of something....speed?



 

France- Chateau Fosseuse- Les Grandes Meaulnes?  needs to b rotated- solly

Spain- Seville street scene- remind you of any one? LIKE VERMEER?"

Spain- Alhambra, Grenada

 


                                                                        Cozunel-   Incidents of Travel

after the book by John Lloyd Stephens- Incidents of Travel in Yucatan and Central America; I had the first edition two volumes- 1841 with the intensely wonderful illustrations by Catherwood...but what got me started on these vignettes- was my diving trip to Cozumel - 1/8-15-2011.  being: notes on the difficulties of translation- Cathy and I like botannical gardens wherever we go and so, after much toing and froing, we finally find the alledged Jardins et plantinas in San Miguel, the capital of Cozumel, where I have gone to try scuba diving. We were about ready to give up- but we drive in and see that this is a tourist trap- with paint gun shooting and a trip line for tourists from the huge cruise ships. Can you imagine getting off one othese hotels on the seas in a wonderfully exotic place like Cozumel and going to slide down a rope?  Anyway- we're here for the beautiful flowers- we tell Senor, who is anxious to show us a parking space. All of Mexico is vending and fine print and negotiation and bargaining- it sickens me, generally, but- one has no choice. The huge site, Chichen Itza was crawling with beggars when we went in the 90's- of which, more later. All prices are subject to negotiation- salesmanship and sales rule- people can "show you something special". Yes, Senor says, I can show you- or, you can look at a plant for 4 dollars? I get a picture of walkkng around and seeing a jacaranda or flame tree and that one stop costing me with a Mesican attendant to charge. I give up, drive away and later find out- it is a place for selling of plants- not viewing!

pros and cons of SCUBA and assorted notes on the sport: cons- like skiing- which I could not do at my age due to brittle bones and difficulties of putting gear on like boots, etc., SCUBA has a lot of technology and gear to it- and just putting on the booties is hard-tons of equipment- then comes getting off the boat (piercing pain to ears on first dive); must know many things-bc vest, hook up regulator, turn on air, the weights- omigod- how much lead to put on-  many things can go wrong; first dive- fins are ok- mask leaks, go to 60 feet, achieve proper "bouyancy" and neutrality and level in the water (took me 6 dives); all this and then you might see scary things; i can barely get back on boat

pluses? see beautiful things that you never saw before!- velvety colors of the tropics and neon fish colors- an intense variety of corals, sponges, marine animals (do I need to put my glasses prescription into the mask? a comrade points out a moray eel in a cave and all I see is a heap of brown- no it was a green moray- he says!) (actually- Steve says- the brown heap was a nurse shark and the green moral eel was laying along the cave wall to the side!) ; at the end I conclude I wouldn't mind doing shore diving in 30 feet or so (some one says Bonnaire is good for that) - or snorkeling- but Cozumel is drift diving at 50-70 feet!! At 69 I am at the limits of my range of athleticism! Steve- my derisory, misogynist dive master says I need to relax- easy for him to say. How are you going to relax on your first dive. It's like jumping out of an airplane. His assistant, John, is a martinet who only criticizes- "you kept popping up"! On my next to last dive- when I am finally enjoying myself and looking around- I feel him pushing and banging on the tank on my back and yelling at me- (you kept going up). Steve says he expected me to die on every dive. The German guy, who senses a person to pick on- i e me- says- he missed seeing the nurse sharks and the eels!  It's all too much.

Back when I was in prison I had started a novel about the Yucatan and Mayans and had mentioned the Palencar Reef. Now I am diving through it.

Cozumel in a way desultory since the hurricanes, but then there are the reefs!

Mayan ruins (pop as FRGS and my first love of exploration)  here and on mainland, Pacal's birthday? what, exactly, is it?

                                                         Alberta- Canmore and Jasper (last week of May-June 9, 2011)



a possibly true, haunting saying- in the mtns there is peace- I get many wonderful photos-this time also have the camcorder for movies-and become obsessed with providing the saccharine, cliched usual commentary one hears in travel documentaries- such as we heard at some visitor's centers- "In the spring the bears and big horn sheep ...the first peoples traversed these valley....the magnificence of the supremacy of the mtns produced by Ordovician upheavals-etc, etc-

UK, France, Spain, Maine 


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