Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A letter to Jack

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." - Jack London

Dear Jack,
Do you remember the time that we came and visited your house in Glen Ellen? Ethan was a toddler then. We strolled the grounds and ate lunch on a strange minty green lawn that nature had grown inside the walls of the ancient roofless winery you used to house farm equipment so long ago. I was so sad to hear your house had burned down just after you finished building it, but to be honest with you, I preferred the little white house, where you wrote and slept for so many years, to the Big House anyway. As we strolled up to see your grave, I hadn't expected to see the graves of the two pioneer children beside your own. I felt self-conscious when I cried, out there in the open, in front of your grave. The world had been yours, traveler, writer, explorer, magician of words. You had said you wished to be buried next to them, so they wouldn't be so lonely.

Thank you for saving all of those rejection letters from the publishers who didn't realize what they were turning away from. 600, were there? How did you have the strength to keep writing after that?

I watched the little black and white movie over and over as my family continued on through The House of Happy Walls, your widow's house-turned-museum dedicated to you. I couldn't pull myself away. Did you have any idea as you played with an armful of little piglets, that you would be dead four days later? You looked so happy, so full of life. You were 40.

I have to say that since that day, the day when we visited you, I have kept your credo up where I could see it. I have known it by heart for years. "I would rather be ashes than dust..." etched into my mind and eventually, my being.

But I need to tell you that I don't think I feel that way any more.

I want to
be here. I don't want to burn through my days so frantically. I want it to be more than using my time. And maybe that was never how you meant it, but I guess that's how I read it.

I hope you don't mind so much, but I put your words away. I had read them like a letter to me, but I am writing you back to say, things have changed. I think there is more than the choice between flaming meteor and sleepy planet, than ashes or dust.

Thank you for the visit. I'll write again when I get settled, as soon as I figure out where that is.