During all the time that Shoghi Effendi spent in Switzerland, I wonder whether he ever ventured out to Mainau, a famous garden island on Lake Constance (just over the German border). Mainau is famous for a variety of features, one of which is a water staircase lined with cypresses. One quick look at the staircase is likely to remind any Bahá’í of the grand terraces on Mount Carmel.
Once upon a time I was 25 years old and I tried to resign quietly from the religion I’d been born into—and formally “declared” myself into. I’m not sure that my declaration, at the mature age of fifteen, amounted to more than saying “yes” to my parents, but sure, I was a believer—just as I’d been a believer when I was five. I don’t remember being particularly interested in religion at the time.
By the time I resigned, or requested to do so, I’d been around the Bahá’í block, so to speak. I’d studied the Bahá’í religion intensely, studied Arabic, served on a Local Spiritual Assembly, participated in several mass teaching projects in four states, and served at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. I knew a thing or two about the Bahá’í religion, but I hadn’t believed in it at all for more than two years, and I was watching a Bahá’í leader in my local community behaving quite badly, so I was moved to mail in my resignation.
A brutally honest and boldly naive tribute to wounded hawks, inspired by a hawk that Robinson Jeffers and sons fed for weeks before the poet was finally compelled by sympathy to turn a gun on the bird.
Robinson Jeffers’ depiction of the Central California Coast as a place populated by Anglo-American ranchers and a Hispanic underclass (some if not all indigenous Californians) seems probable enough, but Jeffers’ human landscape lacks the Asiatic tone of some of the key people of the coast. Tamar is a conspicuous example of this issue.
I am of the general opinion that each of us has a religion. Each of us holds something to be sacred, though not all of us choose to follow self-proclaimed infallible guides. Not all of us involve prayer as part of our religion, but for those of us who do, prayer can take the form of a poem. For Bahá’ís, sunlight is a favorite metaphor for right guidance from God, but not everyone thinks that light is necessarily the best guide. For Robinson Jeffers, a prayer to a Goddess of darkness is more appropriate than a prayer to a God of light.
There is an outlaw thread in Igneous Range, so one of the Robinson Jeffers poems that it reminds me of is the Summit Redwood:
First published in 1928
Reading by Kaweah
A companion lyric to Cawdor and a splendid fire-poem in its own right, The Summit Redwood has never been selected for any anthology, possibly because it appears to put “people of color” in a bad light, or perhaps because its style appears to be inconsistent. I happen to see it as a marvelous portrait of kindred defiants: a red tree and a red man.
Redwoods don’t often grow on summits, particularly on the coast, but often enough for the purposes of this poem. They are shaken by lightning commonly enough. Continue reading →