I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. ~Jorge Luis Borges
I have in my possession a book of poetry published in 1933. I’ve read many books older than me. What makes this book unique in my library is that it was also printed in 1933. Having the same book in a modern edition lacks the weight of history. It is sacred. It is holy. Trying to separate the yellowing pages stuck together at the edge opposite the binding, I made a slight tear just over an inch in length at 45 degrees to the page edge. Thankfully, no words were assaulted during my sin. Yes, tearing the page felt like I sinned against the book, sinned against the author, sinned against humanity, rent the fabric of paradise itself.
The ability to write and read books sets us apart from other life on earth with the possible exception of the array of insects misidentified as bookworms. I’m sure their penchant for chewing through books is also to read the printed words. Our ability to read/write books sets us apart from life forms or humans that can do neither or choose not to do either. They are no better or worse than us simply beings on a different journey for whom books are not required.
Books enable us to readily connect with people we will never meet face to face yet still share in their thoughts, still grow from their wisdom, sometimes interact with a kindred soul. Such is the case in this oldish volume conceived and birthed by the poet Robinson Jeffers. It is not my first encounter with Robinson Jeffers and his radical thoughts on man’s place in creation.
I first heard of Jeffers in the late 80s or early 90s, deep in my throes of Earth First mentality. I found him referenced while reading wisdom sowed by the deity Edward Abbey and immediately, as immediately as a book could be purchased in pre-Amazon days. The volume chosen, Rock & Hawk, the only Jeffers book on the shelf, was selected, despite being a sizable book of poetry and my having scant interest in the medium, as much for the title as Abbey’s recommendation. I love rocks. I love Hawks. I have come to cherish the book.
My latest acquisition by Robison Jeffers, the venerable volume resting on the side table next to where I’m writing is titled, “Give Your Heart to the Hawks.” Purchasing the book was a no brainer. Loving it even easier. Add the advanced age, older books smell different, feel different, radiate differently and it becomes a book I expect to worship alongside my three copies of Desert Solitaire by Cactus Edward Abbey. All four books will reside, by themselves, on the highest tier of my bookshelf.
There is another antiquarian Jeffers book en route, a first edition printed in 1948. It took a contrarian position to America’s involvement in WWII making it difficult to publish to a society brainwashed into believing the war could be honorable. I am strongly entrenched in the anti-war camp so am looking forward to connecting more deeply with Jeffer’s kindred, holy spirit.
May both Ed and Robinson rest with their beloved Earth for all eternity. I hope one day to join you, gentlemen.