“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – Fitzgerald
The gin and tonics melt in a frosty glass with a sprig of mint, resting on a big pine table on the stone porch at the Grove Park hotel. Fitzgerald’s ghost softly whispers “come here, come listen to this…” — in invitation. His hair is parted in the middle, and he’s wearing a jacket in my vision, he always wearing a jacket. I don’t believe in ghosts but he has things to tell me.
“Maybe there’s a god above, but all I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you…. And it’s not a cry you can hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” -Leonard Cohen
You say the trip would be an act of love. But there are floors to mop. Does anyone voluntarily mop floors? The kids don’t know how much I hate it, and they shouldn’t. It’s part of the pact that we entered bringing them into this world. It’s an act if love showing the kids the little things – from a fine novel to a Tiffany lamp in a dark world. Transcending the blandness of the everyday, so that in times of despair maybe they will remember.
We walk on the bones of the dead, and I think spirit is as real as memory, as anything. I tell myself magic is everywhere, in the wind– if you listen for it above the commotion of cars and humanity; you can almost see magic in the pale stars above the city lights. I’m afraid that rings with resignation or despair. You can’t really see stars anymore. They’re just gone.
Thanksgiving is approaching, a holiday that’s been distorted into a celebration of deep-fried turkey and football, children’s white paper hats and Indian feathers. How terrifying that we’ve trivialized the past, when so few pilgrims actually survived the first few years of their “pilgrimage” to America. Wasn’t it around 50? How did they even have strength to bury the dead? What a disservice to remember them this way, and to the Indians who helped them survive. All of our holidays have been compromised and commercialized… with the exception of MLK day, which is too young to have been tainted by the scourge of time. With all the shooting it may become National Ceasefire Day.
I can almost taste those gin & tonics, glasses sweating with condensation, ice cold. We’ll travel like the arc of a modern novel: rising action, self-realization, with no denouement. A pilgrimage of passion toward a past that flies from us as we reach toward it.
Something spiritual is in the air…maybe it’s personal or maybe has risen from the depravity of the election. With Leonard Cohen’s death this weekend, “Hallelujah” is in my head. Really more of a ballad about lost love, isn’t it?
“But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya”
When I first moved to Colorado Springs, about twenty years ago, I made a visit to Frank Water’s house. It took a little doing. A trip to the library to find the address…a lunch hour, a parking meter, quarters. Most importantly to stop procrastinating. When I found it, I discovered it had been turned into a multi-apartment rental. I asked some of the tenants to let me peak in and I caught a glimpse of an elaborate stairwell, crown moulding, peeling paint. There’s a little park next to his house, and I sat on a bench there under a pine tree, trying in vain to see the mountain peak as it was a hundred years ago.
Part Cherokee, Waters wrote from the Native American’s point of view. He wrote The Man Who Killed the Deer, and also a historical piece called Pike’s Peak. I bought a signed edition of the latter for a dear friend of mine, but that’s another story, for another day. It was nice though, to hold his signature in my hand.
Maybe you don’t find the pilgrimage, maybe the pilgrimage finds you. I stumbled across Sophia’s Cathedral somehow, in Novgorod, Russia, and inside was an icon of the Virgin that reportedly stopped bullets in WWII. Madonna and child. If ever there was a mystical place, that was it. I could’ve stared, literally stared, at that image for hours. …. I can’t help but feel with our current view toward art, that we’ve discarded any reverence toward beauty and poetry. With the recent remarks by our President-elect, I feel belittled and degraded by our society in a way I’ve never known before.
“…her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you…”
On the same trip to Russia, a once in a lifetime event I know, I think I knew it then…I also saw Dostoevsky’s staircase…the apartment where he is reputed to have written Crime and Punishment… Dostoevsky looks a little like Jack Nicholson if you imagine him without the beard. The stairway was filled with graffiti from around the world. Hundreds of pilgrims paid tribute to a man who stood up in troubled times, risking his life and trying to preserve both his life and his sanity. Few writer’s had such insight into the human soul. “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” – Fitzgerald
Door of Sophie’s Cathedral, Novgorod