When I feel as if I need a vacation from writing, I make certain to bring my laptop computer with me to the cheap motel room that I designate Command Central. So call me the obsessed fool that I am. I no longer own time for caring about the judgments people make regarding me (nor even about those judgments I make about myself).
For the past few days I’ve been on the road. Not at all the same road that Kerouac traveled, not this time; because I’ve been down that road before, and I witnessed there no more than dizzy desolation. I might yet die of the repercussions of that particular voyage.
No, no more of acts of self-destruction, not for me. This time round, instead, I searched for grandeur, for the splendid and exquisite tenderness that lives inside this paradise that I call home.
I watched pink flamingos preening, and I noticed that they never once looked back at me. True grace owns no sense of vanity. We human beings clean our feathers so that others might offer us compliments before we wrinkle up and die, while these gorgeous birds perform a similar act just so the gift of oil without perfume will keep them dry whenever heaven rains.
So popular nowadays for some to say that “The Good Old Days” are only myth. But I believe these pale philosophers of the present moment are lying to themselves, either that or they are young and inexperienced. Each man owns his own sense of a prettier past, memories in song and smell and mental photographs. Without my “Good Old Days” I’d feel bereft of tales to tell.
Lighthouses are, for me, one constant source of inspiration (that other so-called myth that a writer’s not supposed to await). While on this road trip, I watched one of my favorite beacons blinking. I walked inside the white-washed granite house and met the keeper who told me stories of shipwrecks and whale oil lamps. “This lighthouse was named for the pine trees that surround it,” he said. “You can walk upstairs and watch the lens if you please, or downstairs and watch a bit of history.”
I chose the downward spiral first.
And there I discovered the warmth of a lonely home, heated stove against the outdoor storm. Copper kettle. Fire burning wood to blackened bits of char inside the heart of Nature.
No labels warning man of the hazardous possibility of disease; he’ll die no matter how long or short his life on Earth.
No list of ingredients and calories. Instead, walk outside tomorrow morning, and there on God’s property butcher a lamb and milk a goat. Enter the outdoor shack and check the level of oil inside the tank. The year is 1855. Sailing ships still made of lumber depend upon your common sense of dignity and duty. These are qualities that no university degree is able to instill.
I next traveled a short distance up the coastline, and there I found the backside of an ugly building that impinged upon my sense of what is right. A three-story, rectangular box made of concrete, glass and tired imagination. No artist designed this rude monstrosity. Yet, I told myself, someday someone will include his memory of this sharp-cornered prison inside his vision of “The Good Old Days.”
So frail is any man’s notion of art. So surrounded and contained by prejudiced experience. Bake a cake inside a concrete building, and the cake’s sweet aroma will supersede its concrete container.