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page 33

Neal Whitman, USA

Tor House Trilogy

1. Docent on Duty

I like the silent church before service begins. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Robinson and Una Jeffers rented a house in Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1914 when The Great War dashed their plans of living in Lyme Regis on England's Dorset coast. They discovered it was their "inevitable place" and never left. In 1919 they bought property and built their own house, naming it Tor House because it was situated on an outcropping of rock.

As a volunteer docent who gives public tours, I like to arrive early because I treasure the time alone. I sit and look and breathe.

unlock the iron gate

the rose garden is mine

until guests arrive

2. Flight

Last year I was asked to recite the Jeffers' poem, "Rock and Hawk," ahead of an aria written for it by composer Robert Nelson. Before its premier performance, the baritone from Monterey Opera scheduled to sing it, visited Tor House as part of his preparation… a day I just happened to be on duty. Serendipity. For visitors that day, in front of Hawk Tower next to Tor House, they got my impromptu recital of the poem followed by the singer's rendition. Our background scenery? Carmel Bay.

soaring gulls
the singer's song
writ on water

3. On No Two Days…

Docents learn that there are different expectations, eyes and ears with each tour group. One day, a group arrives from the Clark Center for Japanese Art. Expecting poetry lovers, I see a camera swinging around each neck. They seemed more interested in the spring bird migration than in the legacy of Jeffers.

big honkers fly over
early arrivals from Canada
point and shoot


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