delithopia

Notes from the Waxhaws

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Orbis tertius

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I come here to remind myself…that I live on a planet circling a star…in the vast blackness of space. Nothing but sky and sea…with a view into infinity. Life is reduced to its simplest terms. All else fades into insignificance. 

Written by Jim

February 24, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Wandering

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The Song of Wandering Aengus


I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,   

And cut and peeled a hazel wand, 

And hooked a berry to a thread; 

And when white moths were on the wing, 

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

 

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire aflame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And some one called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

 

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

~ William Butler Yeats

Written by Jim

January 22, 2017 at 2:29 pm

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A world of dew

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I awoke this morning…cold under the blanket. After what has seemed like an interminably long and hot summer…this felt different. Outside, everything was adorned with silver jewels…caught in the rays of the rising sun. Each dew drop…as Andrew Marvell once pondered…

“Does, in its pure and circling thoughts, express The greater heaven in an heaven less.”

Each clinging dew drop…on this cool Carolina morning…reflecting the world around it…and reminding me that we too, are but reflections of something greater…waiting for the warming rays that will soon release us…and return us to our source. 

Written by Jim

October 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Watchtowers

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Come to the silver gardens of the South,
Where whisper hath her monarchy, and winds
Deftly devise live tapestries of shade,
In glades of stillness patterned,
And where the red-bird like a sanguine stain,
Brings Tragedy to Beauty.

~ from The Silver Gardens by Archer Milton Huntington

 

Two weeks ago…I had to get away. I easily forget how near the ocean is, so I packed a bag and drove to the coast…to spend the weekend on the Grand Strand of South Carolina. It’s the off season in Myrtle Beach, so the crowds have diminished and hotel rooms are plentiful…and reasonably priced. I needed to spend some time conversing with the sea…and I obtained an excellent vantage point…a room on the twelfth floor of the Bay View Resort, with a balcony overlooking the wide expanse of the Atlantic. I could breathe again as I sat in the chill November air…peering into emptiness from my watchtower. The gloaming soon turned to darkness.
Sunset

Then, rising early the next day, I was witness to a miracle. My watchtower had revolved through space…and through the night while I slept…to once again meet up with the sun…to begin a new conversation.

sunrise

After a while…after a long silence that helped clear my mind in preparation for the day, I made my way south along the coast about thirty minutes or so…to Atalaya…another watchtower. In fact, Atalaya means watchtower in Spanish. This castle on the coast was the winter home of Archer Huntington and his wife Anna Hyatt Huntington. It was designed by Archer himself, in a style reminiscent of Moorish architecture he had seen in Spain. Archer was a fabulously wealthy industrialist, and his wife Anna, a world-renowned sculptor (Oddly enough, I discovered that Anna’s last major work was a bronze statue of Andrew Jackson that is located in Andrew Jackson State Park, a few miles from where I live).

Atalaya

When I arrived at Atalaya, which is now part of Huntington Beach State Park, I checked in with the docent, who provided a map that would lead me on a self-guided tour of the structure. It’s really just an empty shell now, but while walking through the 30 or so rooms that encircle the inner courtyard, I could still sense the presence of the extraordinary couple who had lived there in solitude (along with their many servants), with only the wild Atlantic as their neighbor. When I finished my tour, I returned my map. The docent quizzed me…”Did you find the guest room?”, he asked. Hmmm…I thought hard…returning to each empty room in my mind. Then we both blurted out at the same time…”There is no guest room.” Archer and Anna valued their privacy, and while they often had guests during the day, they would pack them up and send them on their way by nightfall.

My next stop was just across the highway from Atalaya…Brookgreen Gardens, a botanical and sculpture garden designed by Archer and Anna. There is also a wildlife preserve on this expansive tract of land that lies between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean.

Archer and Anna

I spent a few hours walking the many paths in this garden that was originally designed to showcase the work of Anna Hyatt Huntington. My favorite sculpture, however, was that of Laura Gardin Fraser…The Pegasus. It depicts Inspiration taking flight upon the wings of Pegasus. It lifted my spirits as I imagined it soaring into the perfectly blue Carolina sky.

Pegasus

Melancholia and the one percent solution

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I was driving home recently…listening to a piece of music called ‘Melancholia’…a somewhat new age adaptation of the familiar folk song Greensleeves…streaming into my car via a satellite hovering above in low earth orbit. While listening to this ageless tune, it occurred to me that this melody had originated in someone’s mind hundreds of years ago. Some melancholy moment of reflection upon an unrequited love, perhaps. How tenuous that slender and fragile thought in its beginnings that, nevertheless, survived and made a remarkable journey far into the future to touch my thoughts and spin me into a reverie. It made me think about how the past still exerts tangible power over us…whether or not we’re aware of it. We like to think that our thoughts are original…that they originate with who we are…or who we think we are.

This past week…my sense of self-identity was forever changed. A few weeks ago…on a whim…I sent in a sample of my DNA to be tested through the Ancestry DNA program of ancestry.com. By comparing and matching my DNA with countless other samples they were going to tell me where I came from. I wasn’t expecting any surprises…and it didn’t shock me when I received the results this week, revealing that I was 99% Eastern European (Polish, to be exact) in origin. In fact, the typical native of that region in Europe logged in at 82%…so it appeared I was even more native than the natives. What did take my breath away momentarily…was the remaining one percent. That one percent of my DNA was consistent with natives of Ireland. I already knew that at some point in the distant past, there had been migrations of Celtic peoples to areas throughout Europe, including southern Poland where my grandparents were from. So…this revelation that my bloodline…however small a part it might be…could be tied to those ancient Celtic peoples that roamed the continent, and stretched back in time to the Emerald Isle itself…was simply astonishing.

What makes us who we are? We like to think that we have the bigger hand in how our lives are shaped. But is this really true? The very thought that the actions of two people (among many, many others)…thousands of years ago in the neolithic period on an island at the edge of a vast sea…were instrumental in my even being here…is simply humbling.  Beside the physical connection…what other tenuous thoughts and feelings have filtered down through the ages to shape me into who I am? Do they account for the fact that the writings of John O’Donohue resonate in my soul? That I love the story of the Tuatha de Danann…a mythical Irish people who, when standing face-to-face with an invading army, turned sideways into the light and disappeared? Who knows. At the very least, it may offer some explanation for the rather illogical and somewhat magnetic attraction I have to the music of Enya…

Turn sideways into the light as they say
the old ones did and disappear
into the originality of it all.
Be impatient with easy explanations
and teach that part of the mind
that wants to know everything
not to begin questions it cannot answer.
~ David Whyte, Tobar Phadraic

 

Written by Jim

August 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

wee folk

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Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
~William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

I thought I heard a bit of a commotion during the night. Some garden fairies seem to have taken up residence during the cover of darkness…

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Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.
~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I think that people who can’t believe in fairies aren’t worth knowing. ~Tori Amos

Written by Jim

July 12, 2015 at 7:33 am

Connemara

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I could see it on the horizon…six miles distant…like a small sun rising over the pines. It was the Peachoid. Life is just not complete until the Peachoid is seen in all its resplendent glory…especially, now that it’s been freshly painted. For those of you who are fans of House of Cards…you’ll know of what I’m speaking. For those who aren’t…the Peachoid is a water tank in the town of Gaffney, South Carolina, that has, what Wikipedia describes as, an ‘enormous cleft’  made to resemble that distinctive characteristic of a peach. The water tower has also been, to the dismay of Gaffney residents who are extremely fond of the structure, the ‘butt’ of many jokes (visit the Peachoid link above to view some pictures and to draw your own conclusions).

But the Peachoid sighting was just a charming interlude on my way to Flat Rock, North Carolina, to visit Connemara, the former home of poet and writer Carl Sandburg, and now a National Historic Site. Sandburg moved there in 1946, when he was 67 years of age with his wife, daughters, and grandchildren. He lived there until his death in 1967 at the age of 89. Our tour guide attributed his longevity to the goat milk and cheese from the goats that his wife Lillian raised, and whose descendants can still be seen in the goat barn on this 246 acre farm.

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The Sandburgs were said to have lived very simply. The most striking thing when walking through the house was the sheer number of books that were present. There were shelves in practically every room that held seventeen thousand books… in many of which could be seen small slips of paper that served as bookmarks…a record of when they were last consulted by members of the Sandburg household. I noticed many, many books on Abraham Lincoln that were most likely referenced by Sandburg during the writing of his own well-known works on our sixteenth President.

Carl and his wife Lillian, who was the sister of famed photographer Edward Steichen, were married for sixty years. Standing in the bedroom where Carl died in 1967, it was hard not to get misty-eyed when our tour guide mentioned that his last words, or last word, was ‘Paula’…a nickname for his beloved wife…

The Great Hunt
I never knew any more beautiful than you:
I have hunted you under my thoughts,
I have broken down under the wind
And into the roses looking for you.
I shall never find any greater than you.
~ Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems, 1916

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Written by Jim

May 24, 2015 at 5:05 pm