zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
pirsig’s book describes a 17-day motorcycle journey from minnesota to northern california by the author and his young son. the narrator of the story is phaedrus, a teacher of creative and technical writing at a small midwestern college.
while turning the highway miles there is a heavy-duty discussion of the topics of epistemology, ethical emotivism, and the philosophy of science. however, the most important issue ot phaedrus is establishing a definition of quality. phaedrus says, “you know what it is, yet you do’t know what it is. . . obviously some things are better than others. . . so round and round you go.”
zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance was also a serious attempt of a failed father to successfully bond with his son on their road trip. this brought back memories of my uneasy relationship as a single-parent taking my son camping in the michigan upper peninsula for the first time. for a brief moment i was seen as a distant personality to ted, until we fished for trout, climbed in the porcupine mountains, and cooked our dinners on the lake superior shore.
with pirsig–or phaedrus–and his history of mental illness there was also a tension over would he stay well until they reached their california destination. reflecting on this dilemma, i remembered driving late at night through the canadian gaspee peninsula, my brain numbed with thorazine and wondering if i would make it to maine and climb mount katahdin.
the shipping news
in the shipping news, author annie proulx weaves a tale of a sad newspaper pressman worker quoyle who surprisingly turns his dismal life around. quoyle takes the advice of his aunt and moves with his two daughters back to his ancestral home in kellick-claw, newfoundland. in kellick-claw, quoyle gets a job with the local newspaper, the gammy bird, and writes stories about the arrival and departure of ships from the local harbor.
quoyle is successful with his job, makes close friends in his new community, and develops a warm relationship with a young kellick-claw woman. it was good to read about a loser who seized the opportunity to find happiness. this was just like my present graybeard days having obtained the freedom to think and write.
the mysterious island
i have no idea how many times i have read the mysterious island, the exciting adventure tale by jules verne. the first time was as a young adolescent in the smith family living room. other times i would pick up the book when i felt the need to revisit the daring of men facing a serious challenge.
verne’s novel is about five men escaping a richmond, virginia prison during the american civil war by hijacking a balloon. verne’s characters are cyrus harding, an engineer, and his black servant neb, a sailor pencroff and his adopted son herbert, a journalist gedeon spillet, and cyrus harding’s dog, top.
a violent storm carries their balloon to a small unkown volcanic island in the pacific ocean where they are marooned. the survivors name their new location “lincoln island” after president abraham lincoln, and establish a cliff-side dwelling that they called “granite house.”
the small group using their wits and intelligence are able to sustain themselves on the “mysterious island.” they were able to create fire, make pots and bricks, and harvest enough food to live.
at the end of verne’s book, the “mysterious island” is destroyed when the volcano erupts, however, the island colonists were rescued. another mystery of the island was the presence of captain nemo and his nautilus submarine. nemo sent a message to the skipper of the ship duncan to come and save the island’s settlers.
each time i have reread verne’s the mysterious island, i dream that i was also a settler on lincoln island and working with the others to face the needs of survival.
songs of a sourdough
i have always carried on a serious and distant love affair with the territory of alaska. once i even tried to obtain employment in the state teaching for the bureau of indian affairs. so, i find the poems of robert service indeed interesting to read and relate to. if i was a hermit by some accident or design it is likely that i would memorize my favorite sourdough poems.
in his poem “the call of the wild” service speaks to the wilderness.
“there’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a
star agleam to guide us,
and the wild is calling, calling, . . . .”
the service poem “the three voices” reminds me of the many nights i camped alone in the pictured rocks michigan upper peninsula outback.
“there by the campfire’s flicker,
deep in my blanket curled,
I long for the peace of the pine-gloom
when the scroll of the lord is unfurled,
and the wind and the wave are silent,
and the world is singing to world.”
my favorite song of a sourdough poem is service’s “the men who don’t fit in.”
“there’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
a race that can’t stand still;
so they break the hearts of kith and kin,
and roam the world at will.
and each forgets that his youth has fled,
forgets his prime is past,
till he stands one day with a hope that’s dead
in the glare of truth at last.
he’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
he’s a man who won’t fit in.”
t. kilgore splake
i believe in my writing and feel that the story in rainbow diary represents my most honest and creative literary work. rainbow diary describes the lives of the poet and his soul mate vida who live in their stone house on the cliffs of eagle island. they have escaped the anarchy of “mala nala” a community connecting five separate islands in the pointe archipelago.
the separate chapbook chapters reflect living beneath the different colored rainbows arching over the separate islands. these rainbows are “red strawberry, black licorice, golden honey, emerald mint, chocolate brown, and creme vanilla.” the chapbook concludes with a double-rainbow morning on the cliffs.
my rainbow diary writings raise the question: is the poet the existential loner of camus’ meursault in the stranger, and the cliffs jules verne’s the mysterious island of my youth? are the poet and vida reminiscent of zhivago and his wife living in a romantic retreat on the distant russian steppes outside varykino? definitely the lives and loves of the poet and vida closely resemble those of brautigan and pauline in their “watermelon sugar.”