Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Long Journey

Along Highway 1, near Big Sur, California. This is me standing at the base of one of the most curious land features along this highway.

Many people come to the Esalen Workshops in order to put their experiences into a context. They want to express their pain without being trite or luridly confessional.

During my workshops, I saw people dealing with all the aspects of the human experience with perseverence, courage, and dignity. I saw people laugh (great celebratory laughter) and I saw them weep at what they had written. It all happened in the most supportive atmosphere I have ever experienced.

Big Sur is an excellent setting for writing because so much of what is going on in the landscape mirrors our own interior journey. The ocean and the rocks are important symbols of experience; however I found this roadside phenomenon to be most characteristic of people's experience at Esalen. This is not stone; it is a mixture of sand, clay, and small stones, shaped by the wind and the rain. It crumbles easily and yet it has a deceptive appearance of solidity. This geographical feature is right next to the highway, and it makes me recall one of my favorite poems by Theodore Roethke:

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones. ...

--excerpted from "Journey Into the Interior" by Theodore Roethke

1 comment:

ggw07 said...

Of course, even at Big Sur, you would find the sharpest, most unique image.



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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

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