Last month in California, my father loaned me his special desktop copy of Robinson Jeffers Selected Poems. I was on a pilgrimage to Tor House, but first, five days in my feel-good place.
Within hours of arriving at the land of my solo retreat, I was out of sorts and feeling stuck. Searching for clues, I flipped through pages of poetry and found the somber piece “To the Stone-cutters” (entire work can be read here). My journal entry begins by quoting the last line. One that seems even more relevant now as I try to glean some nectar from the words I wrote during that expansive time.
Here’s an excerpt from day one, as I began to unravel in that coastal dwelling.
“The honey of peace in old poems…” Robinson Jeffers
‘Dance Church’ is next door and the bass is pumping. I know that I love to dance but there are reasons I am here, not there: jet lag, no sleep, bloodshot eyes, bad music, closed circuits, just don’t feel like it.
I peek in the window and be the voyeur that watches but doesn’t want to take the plunge. Sixty happy people move and jump in a mass of ecstatic wildness. A man exits, sees my indecision and encourages me to go inside. I tell him that I am just too tired.
“I was too, but it woke me up…”
Eventually, I enter. Somewhere around the Van Halen song, “Jump”, (that’s right, ‘go ahead and jump!’) I’m telling myself that I just can’t dance to this. But then I try it anyway. David Lee Roth’s mantra segues into something more palatable and I’m soon a member of the congregation, dancing my own kind of freedom. My state is altered, my body enlivened and I get so into it that when Dance Church is over and it’s time for dinner, I can barely eat.
Later I’m in the hot springs on a new moon in the starlight. A bath with myself and two women – silent. After a long while one begins to gently sing: “When I am in the light of my soul I am home.”
She sings this line quietly for a short time then slowly exits the bath. More silence, warm water and calm.”
Ahh…the honey of peace in old poems.