Not long ago, I was in Carmel, and I took a tour of the Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House. Robinson Jeffers was a poet widely known in the 20s, 30’s, 40’s. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1934. His poetry can be dark and convoluted, but also starkly beautiful. That’s how his house was, starkly beautiful. It was rich in its simplicity. He built it from stones on the beach, apprenticing himself to a stonemason, who did a simple house of living room, guest bedroom, bath, attic for sleeping. Jefferson wrote as well as slept in the attic.
He learned enough to build a square tower for his wife, Una––another story, his wife, Una, with her charm and Celtic leanings; he said they made love like hawks––and he built a wall and later a dining chamber himself. Rolling stones weighing 400 pounds, he worked with his hands in the afternoon and with his poetry in the morning. Friends brought gifts, jade from China, rocks from graveyards, and those gifts are in the walls. So are sayings on stone tablets: “Fight on, my men, I am hurt, but I am not slaine; I’le lay mee downe and bleede awhile, And then I’le rise and fight againe.”Energy still plays in the house, touching those who enter. The beautiful and wild Carmel coast is just out the door and down the path. Passionate docents read Jeffers’ poetry at the bed he died in. He described his death: “….the patient daemon behind the screen of sea-rock and sky/ Thumps with his staff, and calls thrice: Come Jeffers.” Someone large lived there, who made his living writing. The house is authentic in a way that makes me inarticulate.