Monday, May 27, 2013

Carmel by the Sea - Memorial Day 2013 - All Gave Some...Some Gave All

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The Memorial Day observance in Carmel began as it has since the end of World War I, with the ringing of the Memorial Bell at San Carlos Street and Ocean Avenue downtown.  This called to order the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the American Legion Post 512 Memorial Day ceremony in Devendorf Park.



After the laying of the memorial wreaths at the war memorials, the ceremony continued into the afternoon at the American Legion Post 512 on Dolores between 8th and 9th.  



Today we remember those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  The Memorials in Devendorf Park are there as reminders not just today, but everyday, of the great cost that many have paid for our freedom.  Freedom is not free, pray for those we have lost and all those who continue to serve our country in the military.  May God continue to bless our nation. 

All Gave Some...Some Gave All! 


Friday, May 24, 2013

Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party Part 3 - Hawk Tower

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"My fingers had the art to make
stone love stone
."  Robinson Jeffers 

Robinson Jeffers Garden Party 
May 5, 2013
Hawk Tower 


Robin began work on Hawk Tower the year after the main house was finished in 1919.  He would spend five years happily working on this tower.  It would be his gift, his labor of love for Una.  He would give her a tower like her adored poet, Yeats had lived in at Ballylee in Ireland.


Each day in the afternoon Robin would walk down to the beach below their house, find just the right stone and bring it back up the tor. If the wooded railway  Mr. Murphy constructed to transport the heavy granite boulders for construction of the main house was still available this would have made Robin's job a "bit" easier.  If not, he would have carried or rolled the stones back from the beach.  


For the first two stories, Robin rolled the stones up planks in a manner
similar to what the Egyptians used when they built the pyramids.


For the last two stories he would use the block and tackle he had installed near the front door of the main house. Finally in 1925 the massive tower, almost forty feet high with walls as much as six feet thick, was complete.


Today with the sounds of Ed Jarvis on the Bagpipe drifting though the air


I enter the door of Hawk Tower under the capstone with
Una and Robin Jeffers initials carved above.


On the ground floor there are two rooms, one of which, known as the dungeon, is several feet below ground level. Set on the work table is a painting of the 8 cent United States Postal Stamp issued in 1973 commemorating the life and work of  Robinson Jeffers, 

 and a painting depicting the horse in his poem, Roan Stallion


After his death, Robin's writing desk and chair were moved from the main house to the first floor of the tower.  His chair was made out of timbers from the ruins of Carmel Mission.


On the desk is a bible box belonging to his father, Dr. William Jeffers.  It has been filled with some of Robin's personal possessions: Prince Albert tobacco can, pipe, glasses and the sign Una would post daily on their gate, "Not at home before 4PM." 

The painting of Robin wearing an open neck shirt made by Una, is by Sam Manning. The painting was unfinished as Sam died before he finished the portrait. On the window in front of the desk, Donnan carved his name in the glass using his mother's diamond ring.  He learned at school that diamonds cut glass and he wanted to see if this was indeed true.  Sure enough it worked. Stand at just the right angle and Donnan Jeffers appears on the glass.  One act he couldn't blame on his twin brother.

A kerosene lamp lit the first floor and a corner fireplace added warmth.  Una and the twins placed many stone trinkets throughout Hawk Tower - 

above the fireplace is a small cement plaque containing a piece of black lava from Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii, a piece of white lava from Mt. Vesuvius, an Indian Arrowhead from Michigan, and a pebble from the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania.  


There are two ways of reaching the second level of Hawk Tower.  For the more adventurous, try the Up Only secret passage.  But be warned this is not for everyone. 


A tight fit and steep climb, this passage can only be maneuvered successfully
 by leading with your left shoulder.


 Then corkscrew your way up the inside wall to the second level.
There is a window half-way up to add a little light to the journey.



When you reach to end of the passageway,
open the wooden door to enter the second level.

Unless someone is standing against the door,
then just knock frantically until someone finds you. 

  A simpler way would be to climb the exterior stairway.   


The second floor was "Una's Room."

 

Above the fireplace is another motto by Virgil,
"They make their own dreams for themselves." 


  Una surrounded herself with the things that she loved, Robin and the twins. Most of the walls of this room are lined with mahogany panels. The Jeffers hired a cabinet maker to panel the narrow Gothic windows that face south.

Through a short passage there is a small sitting area where Una
 could sit and watch the sea through the oriel windows.


In the short passage between the main room and the sitting area, the Jeffers placed a figurine of a woman with a red cape and black velvet dress. 


 This antique doll rests against a tile dating from 2100 B.C. Babylonia inscribed with a prayer to the goddess Ishtar.  Across from the doll is a carved stone head from the temple of Prah-Khan in Cambodia.   


On the climb to the next level there are two portholes embedded into the west facing wall.


The one on the right is said to be from the "Inconstant," which was the ship that Napoleon escaped on from Elba. In The Stones  Of Tor House, Donnan Jeffers states, "The ship "Inconstant," later renamed "Natalia," was wrecked in Monterey Bay in 1830."  It is true that Napoleon was on the "Inconstant" but I am not sure if it was one in the same as the Natalia."   

The porthole on the left came from the wreckage of an unknown ship that washed ashore in Pacific Grove in the 1880's.  Open the one on the right and glance out to sea. 

From the third floor, "one could ascent from the doorway of this room up into a little turret on the third floor, from which a door gave access to a marble-paved platform protected by battlemented walls." (1)

On this level there are two plaques one is carved with the King James version of Psalm 68:16, 
"Why leap ye, ye high hills?  this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in." 

And another plaque written in Latin that states, "With his own hands RJ built Hawk Tower for me."  

But Hawk Tower doesn't end on the third level. Take hold of the weather worn chain and climb the last few stairs to the top of the turret. The gargoyles on the exterior walls were carved by Mr. Maddox and act as rain gutters.

 From this vantage you can see 360 degrees from Point Lobos to Pebble and the entire grounds of Tor House.  

Before descending back first, notice the piece of stone from the Great Wall of China.  I touch it, knowing that this is the closest I will ever get to the Great Wall. 

Time to descend by the outer staircase and let some other visitors enjoy this incredible view.  


Tour Hawk Tower 

Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers - The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una
Part 1 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party - Tor House Garden 
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party - Tour House and Annex

___
Credits and Photos

Black and White photo - inclined ramp used for first two stories of Hawk Tower - notice garage to the right and the beginning of the stone wall to enclose the courtyard - Kent Seavey, Images of America Carmel A History in Architecture (Arcadia Publishing, 2007), 65 - (Photograph Tor House Foundation Archival Collection).

Black and White photo - Seavey, 66 (Photograph by Horace B. Lyon from Tor House Foundation Archival Collection).

Color photos - L. A. Momboisse taken May 5, 2013.

(1) Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House, (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 24.
  


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party Part 2 - Tor House and the East Wing

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Robinson Jeffers Tor House
Garden Party
Sunday May 5, 2013



Original Kitchen Now the Library 

Still in the main house built in 1919 I leave the living room and enter what used to be the original kitchen.  It is now the library. The picture above shows this portion of the house (from the outside) to the left of the open doorway.

Back inside, the dining room addition (completed in 1930) can be seen through the white door.


 Hundreds of the 2,000 books cataloged by the
 Tor House Foundation are found in this room -   


including Robin's unabridged dictionary. 


Above the dictionary is a painting of Noel Sullivan a friend of the Jeffers who directed the choir at the Carmel Mission.  It was Noel who accompanied Robin and Una on a cross country journey in 1941. Robin had accepted an invitation to speak at the Poet's Congress in Washington D.C. 

   
This acceptance resulted in Robin giving addresses at a number of college campuses as they drove their Ford across the country.  It would be the only time Robin accepted an invitation to speak publicly as a lecturer.

**
 Here, after a brief introduction to his life, you may listen to Robin Jeffers personally recite his poetry
 at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, in 1941.

**

 Still in the library notice the two unicorn figurines on the window sill, a reminder of Una's influence,


and a picture on the back wall of  Annie Jeffers, Robin's mother.  


The side door off this room filled with motto's,
leads to the bathroom.
The motto at the top of the door
written in French states:
"Quick to Accomplish"


Four people, numerous house guests,
one indoor bathroom -
Una was not about to let anyone think
they could take their time in this room.


The Place for No Story 


The coast hills at Sovranes Creek; 
No trees, but dark scant pasture drawn thin
Over rock shaped like flame;
The old ocean at the land's foot, the vast
Gray extension beyond the long white violence;
A herd of cows and the bull 
Far distant, hardly apparent up the dark slope;
And the gray air haunted with hawks: 
This place is the noblest thing I have ever seen. No imaginable 
Human presence here could do anything
But dilute the lonely self-watchful passion. (1)

   Dining Room 

"The year 1930 saw the start of two new projects for Jeffers:  the planning and building of a dining room for Tor House and the writing of a new narrative poem, Thurso's Landing. The new room was to be added to the north of the kitchen with a door and large window facing seaward, another door into the courtyard, and a large window at the north end of the room.  A stone fireplace was planned for the northeast corner, and the room's dimensions were to be large enough to accommodate a long table, as well as one of Una's melodeons and a Welsh dresser for the earthenware dishes.  At the south end of the room would be a corner for her grandmother's spinning wheel.  Mornings Jeffers wrote on Thurso's Landing and afternoons he carried and cemented rock upon rock for the new dining room."  (2)



The picture above was taken in 1920 (Garth and Donnan just toddlers) after Robin completed work on the garage.  It is in the area between the main house and the garage, that the dining room would be built 10 years later.


Work on the dining room was completed in 1930, after the completion of Hawk Tower. Step down from the library into this large room with an open beamed ceiling,



and a ladder that leads to the gallery, an area used frequently by Garth and Donnan. By the tiny door to the gallery is a motto by Virgil, "Easy is the descent."  More motto's can be seen on the Welsh dresser which holds Una's Jug Town pottery. 


Mr. Maddux  a gravestone
cutter from Monterey,
did most of the wood
carvings in the dining room,
 here a Unicorn and a Hawk,
  


and the chiseled inscriptions on various stones,
 here the date of death of Thomas Hardy. 


It was for Mr. Maddux that Robin wrote:

To the Stone Cutters 

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain.  The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems. (3) 


In one corner of the dining room is a large fireplace with a massive chimney.  In order to support the weight of the chimney, Robin dug down four or five feet to make the foundation.  With each shovel full of soil he brought up fragments of abalone shell.  Abalone being a staple of the Ohlone diet was evidence to Robin and Una that their new kitchen lay on the very bedrock where the Ohlone Indians prepared and cooked their meals. 



The walls of the dining room are quite different than the redwood lined walls of the main house.  Here the thick stone walls remain exposed.


It was in these walls that "Una had great fun deciding on where to place the small stones, some of which she had brought home from her travels, and others given by friends.  Robin and the twins then cemented them to the window-frames, into the fireplace, and in the flagstone entrances, as others had been cemented into various portions of the tower...With such embellishments the new room might have achieved the appearance of a fruit cake, but it is a warm, and pleasant room, and one is not uncomfortable in the company of those fragments of Ossian's grave, and of the Egyptian pyramids."  (4) 


In the picture above there is a "carved stone Aztec mask and just above it a small fragment of mosaic from the ancient Roman city of Timgad in North Africa.  Above these again, the large oblong cut block of sandstone was once a surveyor's mark on the highest of the hills just sough of the Carmel River.  The motto "Carpent Poma Nepotes" (Let the Grand-children Gather the Apples) was carved by Maddox."(5)  

If you want to know more about any of the stones, trinkets or gifts placed lovingly around the Tor House property you will find it in The Stones of Tor House by Donnan Jeffers available at in the Tor House Office. It is a tour all in itself!!!


Near the fireplace is a long cord attached to a bell probably used to call the family to supper. This bell came from the Carmel Mission before its restoration in 1933, led by Harry Downie.


Robin employed men from Castroville to hand make and lay the tiles for their dining room floor. Once the twins left for college, Una would encourage them to bring their friends home on the weekends.  Square dancing was in fashion and Garth, Donnan and their friends would need to give little encouragement to their parents before the large oak table was pushed into the corner and a huge floor ready for dancing. The couples would dance for hours, until a pink dust from the soft tile drifted throughout the room. "To this Una began to object, and Robin said, "Very well, I shall build them a ballroom."  Such was the inception of what is now called the east wing."(6) 

The poem October Week-End was written about his sons after they had gone off to college. 

October Week-End 

It is autumn still, but at three in the morning
All the magnificent wonders of midwinter midnight, blue dog-star,
Orion, red Aldebaran, the ermine-fur Pleiades,

Parading above the gable of the house.  Their music is their shining,

And the house beats like a heart with dance-music

Because our boys have grown to the age when girls are their music.

There is wind in the trees, and the gray ocean'sMusic on the rock.  I am warming my blood with starlight,not with girls' eyes,But really the night is quite mad with music.(7)



Today we find a fancy spread on the long dining table used by the Jeffers family. It is the 100th anniversary year of Robin and Una's marriage.


 Una has invited us to tea, pulling out all the stops she is using her personal silver tea service.




Opposite the fireplace is Una's grandmothers spinning wheel.


Above the spinning wheel hang two rifles which were gifts from a friend. The longer rifle on top is a two man rifle.  Just underneath the rifles is a Narwhal tusk Una ordered from the Hudson Bay Company.  She thought it would make a good walking stick but it turned out to be too cumbersome for her stature and it was hung on the wall instead. The Narwhal may have been the closest real live animal Una could get to her mythological Unicorn.



Another one of Una's melodeon organs sits under the window in the dining room, this one a chaplain's or missionary organ which was very lightweight, and easily transportable by missionaries in the field.  
On top of the book case is a bust of Robin by American sculptor Jo Davidson



Robin sat for this at Lincoln Steffens home in Carmel. The bust was commissioned for an exhibition in London where Robin was one of four writers honored.


Prior to his feature in Life, and after the writing of his eighth major work, Thurso's Landing, Robin's  photograph, taken by Edwin Weston, graced the cover of Time Magazine April 4, 1932.  






The East Wing and the "Annex"
The East Wing is not open during regular tours of Tor House.  Today we may enter and listen to the soothing sounds of String Trio, local high school students, Jonathan Vu, Eric O'Hagan and Brynn Dally.



"On January 10, [1937] he celebrated his fiftieth birthday, on which day he laid the first stones for an additional room on Tor House." (8) "It wasn't until 1957 - twenty years after the foundations had been laid - that the structure was complete, and it consisted of a very spacious and pleasant abode with the sitting room, office, and garage on the ground floor and three bedrooms and bath above, and the younger Jefferses, now with three children, moved in." (9)  I had the pleasure to meeting Donnan's children Lindsey and Una in at the garden party.  They each spoke of the joy they experienced growing up at Tor House and birthday parties in Hawk Tower.


1937 - 1957

During those twenty years much would happen in the Jeffers family that would keep the east wing from being completed. In the late 1930's Robin and Una would travel to Ireland for four months, and  Robin would publish The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers.  In 1941 the Jeffers traveled cross country so that Robin could participate in numerous speaking engagements for the Library of Congress. Later that year, Una had surgery for cancer for which she was told she was cured of in 1944. From 1942 - 1946 their son Garth was stationed in Germany.  During this time the Jeffers became very involved with the war efforts at home leaving little time for building, leisure activities or their friends.  Una would write, "...we have taken on a few more duties at Fort Ord and as I regard all that as my contribution to the war effort, it comes first..." (10) 

Robin continued to write during this period, though the war dominated his writing during the 1940's. Publishing Be Angry at the Sun in 1941; "but the full measure of the bitterness and disgust he felt was not apparent until The Double Axe (1948), a volume whose isolationism and biting acerbic criticism of world leaders were so offensive to the literary establishment that his publisher felt compelled to preface the book with a disclaimer." (11)

Yet this decade would also bring Robin great public acclaim.  In 1945 he completed Medea which would be adapted for live theater opening on Broadway in 1947 with Judith Anderson in the title role.  "Night after night, the "Medea" played to a full house, continuing month after month, lauded by the theater's most astute critics, publicized in every newspaper and magazine in the country, with a two-page spread in Life magazine.  As Miss Anderson took the bows, she insisted that all publicity give Jeffers his share of the credit, and it was she who insisted that he receive a generous royalty."(12) 

In 1947 Donnan and Garth would both move to Tor House with their wives. Garth and his family stayed only until May of 1948 when he took a job in Oregon with the US Forest Service. Donnan and Lee would remain at Tor House and raise their children.  Though building on the east wing had begun again - it was be interrupted in 1948 when Robin and Una decided to travel to Ireland.

During this trip, Robin would become quite ill with pleurisy, a condition that almost took his life.  It was a number of months before he was strong enough to return to California.


Sadly in 1949, Una's cancer returned.  Lee nursed her mother-in-law during her illness and Robin slowly began again to work on the east wing.  "By the time of Una's death, in 1950, the walls of the new building were almost to the height of the second floor, and Robin almost ceased to work."(13)

Finally in 1957 with Donnan doing much of the remaining work, the east wing was completed.  


The Annex (or converted garage)

On the inside wall of the dining room there is a doorway which is closed during normal Tor House tours.  Today it is open.  This doorway leads to what was originally the garage built in 1920, but converted to a kitchen during the addition of the east wing.  
                     

"In 1955, the "annex" was nearing completion, and the old garage was successfully converted into a new kitchen,  Lee Jeffers wrote:  "We had a door jack-hammered through the wall from the dining room into the garage.  The garage was extended into the court yard with a large bay window - [original rock arch visible inside] - 


Then Donnan built a wonderful fireplace - and with much, much more work the result is a large and really most charming kitchen - the old kitchen has become the most minute Library to bear so grand a title - very cozy and sweet though, and we all love the changes - gives us so much more room..." (14)


When Donnan finished the east wing he moved Lee and the children into their new quarters.  Lindsey however decided to stay in the attic apartment to be near his grandfather, Robin.  When I spoke to Lindsey at the Garden Party, he spoke tenderly of this time as he recalled those years with his grandfather. 



Inside Tor House 


Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers - The Early Years
Part 3 Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part 4 Robinson and Una
Part 1 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Garden Party - Tor House Garden
___
Credits and Photos 


Black and White photo taken 1920 after the garage was completed - Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 19.

Black and White photo from Life Magazine, April 1, 1948, photo by Nat Farbman.

Color photographs taken May 5, 2013, L. A. Momboisse.

(1) Tim Hunt, ed., The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press, 2001), 379.
(2) Melba Berry Bennet, The Stone Mason of Tor House (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 146.
(3) Hunt, 18.

(4) Bennett, 147.
(5) Donnan Jeffers, The Stones of Tor House (Jeffers Literary Properties, 1985), 7.
(6) Donnan Call Jeffers, The Building of Tor House (Ryan Ranch Printers, 2008), 28.
(7) Hunt, 531.
(8) Bennett, 160.
(9) Jeffers, 29.
(10) Bennett, 193.
(11) Robinson Jeffers Association, Biography 
(12) Bennett, 201.
(13) Donnan, 29.
(14) Bennett, 229.