I took time for a short solo journey, an action that we have tried to cultivate for each of us every now and again. After all, when you live in each other’s pockets just about 24/7, it’s not a bad idea to reintroduce self to self. On Saturday morning I took off for the ocean, in her multiple guises, and returned pretty damn refreshed by Sunday suppertime. A wise choice, and much needed.
I’ve been refreshing my acquaintance of self with self by getting my hands in the dirt, but I needed this turbo-charge. Dunno about you, but especially around this time of year I am often neatly sliced down the middle, with one half knowing very clearly what I want and what will nourish me, while the other half acts like an arrogant toddler and grabs the goodies that will do me most harm.
So I betook myself to the Lady, stopping in Olema to eat some oysters, then driving up the magical peninsula of Inverness as far as the car could go. There’s a parking lot there, where a fifteen-minute hike gets you down to McClure Beach. With all the recent rain, the path is not the easiest footing, and I appreciated the sturdy stick a returning gentleman handed off to me. I had my little bag of chocolate and candied ginger, a kumquat, and a little snort of aged single-malt scotch (birthday gift from my sweetie.)
Some sun, mostly cloudy, but lush and comfortable. I sat in the lee of a grassy hummock, watched the endless inventive waves, and appreciated the other humans who had taken the time to come to the water. I’d stopped in Point Reyes Station and visited the excellent bookstore, finding (oh joy) a Louise Erdrich book I hadn’t yet read, and the Antelope Woman and I enjoyed the companionable public solitude together.
Then back down Inverness and around to the Point Reyes Hostel, beautifully nestled off the Limantour Road to Drake’s Bay. Checked in, made the bunk bed, and took my picnic basket to Limantour Beach. McClure faced west, this faced south, so there’s a subtle difference in what is otherwise twinned soft white-sand beaches and people who took the time to get there. More waves, more Erdrich, more letting it all fall away. My picnic was a ritual replication of what Conrad and I would take to Pescadero and San Gregorio back in the Stanford days, 1963-66, the days that made me a bonded inhabitant of this part of the world. OK, it took thirty-three years to get back, but I am HERE. Teriyaki-broiled chicken, dried figs, and not-too-sweet port.
As the sun bade farewell, back to the hostel, finished Erdrich, and hoped for a cohort of non-snorers in the bunkroom. Not bad.
Next morning, off south on the Hwy. 1 to Stinson Beach to enjoy a little time before visiting old friends in Bolinas, years since the last hugs. A new dwelling for them, and their four years settling has produced a true paradise of colors and lush edibles and eye-candy. A pair of obsessive co-creators, part of our tribe, and working as cleverly as ever to subvert what wants to subvert humanity. Check them out at http://www.eon3.net/.
And then home to the arms of my beloved and a sweet night’s sleep and a renewed vigor for the coming week, and whatever lunacy it presents.
On Facebook, a friend from way back asked, “How does art help you deal with the current state of the world.” There were a number of truly inspirational replies. Mine was simpler.
My own art serves me the way eating or lovemaking serve me: a good thing to do while passing the time between Now and Death. The main point of living is to live. If you can give good things to other people, that’s good; and if you can have pleasure while doing it, that’s good. I suppose one might make a case that much art is financed by exploitation, as with the plutocrats who sit on the board of the Met, but that’s true of virtually every human endeavor. Our own work costs only what it takes to feed & house us, and I think we give back a lot—though not likely to those who are actually creating the wealth, working in the fields or on the assembly line. You can’t entirely escape the moral dilemma of living until you serve a free lunch to the worms.
With other art: When I experience Shakespeare or Bach or Rembrandt or Dickens, part of my feeling, intrinsic to its impact, is admiration for their making these extraordinary creations within a world that was just as distraught and demented as ours, if not more so: war, disease, slavery, torture, beggary, bigotry, the lower classes born into life sentences, sunrise followed by shitstorm—name your horror, it was there in spades.
Our own dystopian achievement is in attaining greater megatonnage, raising the stakes on Gaia’s table and our capacity for self-destruction, but unlike the troupe at the Globe, we don’t have to close our theatres every time the Plague breaks out, and we don’t get our teeth pulled by the barber. I’m all for being aware of—and working to change—the vileness of human stompings on the planet, but I don’t think we have a valid claim to being uniquely vile on the historic timeline.
In an NPR interview, a resident of Austin compared her city with the rest of Texas: “a diamond in a goat’s butt.” That’s my sense of the place of art in the world.
Some would hope that the diamond might improve the goat’s digestive tract. I’d like to believe our new novel will have a butterfly effect, bringing peace, empathy, and better puppet shows to the 23rd Century, but I wouldn’t bet on it. “Confirmation bias” makes us love the stories that confirm our values, while making other people think. Euripides gave us portraits of immense passion and empathy, even as Athenian oligarchic democracy went to hell with imperialist ambition and atrocity. At best, our art can do nothing more than preach to the choir. I tell myself, though, that the choir needs serious preaching to, lest they all stay home to gorge on Cheetos.
I guess my answer to the query is that art helps me deal with the current world by doing something that, still at the age of seventy-five, I’m struggling to learn how to do.