At first, it was a matter of transporting goods and belongings and furniture; hand-carrying the most precious of possessions; and then placing everything in its proper place in the Rental House. This mountain retreat is cozy, spacious, open and airy, serene and scenic.
Red and yellow rose trees greet me each morning from my large second-story window. Evergreens and oaks offer dappled shade to flowers that grow amidst granite rock outcroppings. By day, cloud formations vary as they approach the Sierra Nevada. At night, in the distance, there are the tiny twinkling lights of a small city. They wink at me and they whisper to me of dreams to come true.
This atmosphere of tranquil beauty immediately lent to me the unexpected sense of a vacation home while I wait for the construction of the Dream House. What I truly did not expect was for the Internet connection to be a rarity in this mountain-top location in the rural northern part of California.
I did not hyperventilate or even feel upset. I felt a bit relieved as I took the opportunity to become even more unplugged (See mid-August 2013 Essay).
I soon learned that the survival of the fittest Internet providers during the 2000s led to exactly 2 champions, neither of which was rushing to queue up this location for connection to uplink and download 1s and 0s.
For now, my crystal hot-spot through my iPhone suffices, but during those two weeks of my obliviousness to online life, I regressed to my early childhood: reading encyclopedias. And I came to prefer that mode of restful research!
It was with delight that I re-discovered those leather-bound tomes. I now spend time with them each day. There’s always a new topic, a different Letter. The illustrations, photo plates, maps, and charts are magnificent in this Encyclopedia Britannica from 1959, an era when politically-correct historical revisionism did not exist.
Moving from one home to another encompasses a movement of self from one place in time to another, perhaps to several other locales and regions in the memory. For me, this transition created an exhilarating but placid expansion of the self from times past to times present to times-to-come. It’s as if the road ahead has always been waiting for me, and I’ve had to prepare myself for this journey.
I thought back upon people I’d known and chose to no longer know, people who were crudely ungiving, even mercenary, to not just myself but to all of humanity around them. They injured their own damaged souls far more than my young innocent spirit, my heart so willing to love, to trust, to dream. As Chekhov wrote: “Calculating selfishness is the annihilation of self.”
I contemplated those unfortunate miserables who danced on the dead and did not care about the indecency of their deeds, so driven were they to take and grab and hoard possessions, positions, people, even aspirations, many of which rightfully belonged to other people. And I saw those wretched beings fade away, like pale smoke from a distant, extinct fire.
I tearfully reflected upon the kind souls and gentle hearts who nurtured me on my way to newer destinations, even as they knew they would not be able to join me there, except in spirit. I felt the heart of their honor, and the honor of their hearts. I humbly accepted once again their gifts from the heart. And I felt the wonderment of gratitude for all that God provided for me while I wasn’t looking for blessings.
I decided to further consult with Anton Chekhov, to see if the good doctor had uttered any profundities on these matters during his brief but exceptional life of movement in body, mind, and spirit upon this earth.
I then meditated upon his advice and wisdom, these rare gems, glinting at me through the crystal blue-green water of a calm mountain stream:
— Only during hard times do people come to understand how difficult it is to be master of their feelings and thoughts.
— Better a debauched canary than a pious wolf.
— The unhappy are egoistic, spiteful, unjust, cruel, and less capable of understanding each other than fools. Unhappiness does not unite people but separates them. Even where one would fancy people should be united by the similarity of their sorrow, far more injustice and cruelty are generated there than in comparatively placid surroundings.
— You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.
— Do silly things. Foolishness is a great deal more vital and healthy than our straining and striving after a meaningful life.
— The snow has not yet left the earth but spring is already asking to enter your heart.
Spring has softly entered my heart and with it came the desire for a summer filled with rest and relaxation. I also yearn for quiet time devoted to reading a few books that have waited for my undivided attention. They are dear friends who have lingered long at my doorstep; I have let them into my heart, along with those spring breezes.
All of this sabbatical is of a piece with writing the Westerns and translating THE DAWN. Alexandre Dumas (père) and Le Comte de Monte Cristo will help me to see the fuller scope of la France. The Duff Cooper Diaries promise to offer me views into a world that is no more, but one which has, unexpectedly, re-appeared.
A Happy Summer,
un Bon Été,
and a Joyous Journey to All!