Saturday, September 11, 2021

Enthusiasm

A word well-traveled which originally meant as if possessed by God.  The almighty got dumped along the way as needlessly extra weight and the word, enthusiasm, safely landed to earth. To correct the attribution one was not even possessed at all any longer just passionate about... whatever. Peggy was a world-class enthusiast.

After visiting the Lascaux caves Peggy's ardor for petroglyphs was all-consuming. We heard about a hillside wall covered with mimbres art work. The desert ranger warned that the area from the road to the wall was known to have rattlesnakes. It meant nothing to Peggy but everything to me. I had to practically yank her out of the trek.

She carried a book of Wallace Stevens poetry around with her to inspire or give permission to be baffling or zany. About fifteen years ago we made a pilgrimage to his house in Hartford, Connecticut. We slowly drove his one mile walk to work at the insurance company where he is said to have composed his poetry. There would be plaques on the sidewalk along the way with some of his bewildering lines.

We also went to Emily Dickinson’s abode and breathed her air in that bedroom where she stitched her poems and confined herself even as her imagination roamed the town of Amherst and beyond.

We ventured to Keats’ house in Hampstead Heath looking for nightingales, to Elizabeth Bishop's small town in Nova Scotia, to a room in a Spanish hotel where Rilke wrote some poems and to the spot in Basel, Switzerland where Herman Hesse composed one of his novels. We followed our bliss to Greenwich Village and tracked down Edna St.Vincent Millay's apartment, not far from where Peggy lived as a young woman and to Robert Frost’s farmhouse where he had many miles to go before he'd sleep. We even looked for the address on Baker St. where Sherlock Holmes never lived. 

Enthusiasms can be exhausting and maybe that’s the idea, till all passion is spent. There is nothing so exhilarating as the literary hunt. Of course at the end of it you know nothing more than when you started out except as food for the imagination. And that’s no small thing. It can also bring you to that state of ecstasy (out of stasis).  

In fact enthusiasms may lead to a sacred search, divinely inspired. What you find is an aspect of yourself to move the world an enormous inch and what could be more holy than the act of creation? If the goal was to capture an essence of the author it was always doomed. No attainment is part of a receding horizon which every writer experiences. The journey is the destination.  

 

        

 

 


3 comments:

  1. I remember when you went on some of those trips and some of the terrible pharmacist I had to work with!

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  2. This must be Betty. You paid the price of Peggy's zeal and zest.

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  3. You caught Peggy's filled-with-god-ness so beautifully!!!!

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