Once I visited Arrowhead, (Pittsfield, MA) the home where Herman Melville wrote the Great American novel that almost nobody reads anymore, and certainly it is far too long for students with short attention spans who need commercial breaks every six or seven minutes.(I will not go off on a tangent here.) It was deserted the day I visited, this grand old sea captain’s house, now harboring an American treasure. Well, not entirely deserted, the volunteer at the front told me not to sit in any chairs or touch any furniture as I walked reverently upstairs to the room with the desk the master used when writing. It faced the wide window showing an excellent view of Monument Mountain,the place where Melville had walked into a storm with his neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne. I must admit I sat in his chair, touched his desk, his inkwell, his pen, although very lightly. It was a thrill I will not forget. Today I write in a room where my desk faces a wall to wall window on a view vastly unlike the one at Arrowhead, although I live in a village beside Lake Arrowhead, My view is an extreme close up of giant cedar pines, and because I am on the second floor I only see the fullness of their middle regions, long graceful branches loaded with needles, wall to wall trees. Today I woke to the wild wind gusting, the TV tells me, up to 85 miles an hour. That, my friends, is like watching a stage full of frenzied flamenco dancing ladies shaking their ruffles to the point of tearing them. It is very dramatic here in the San Bernardino mountain forest today. So much so that my big, usually wild dog, is overwhelmed by the weather and rather docile, content to stay in her cozy bed and allow me to write with my back to her for as long as I like. Now, an hour after waking, the dark fog has saturated every inch between the trees as they continue to sway, toss, and knock their heads together in front of me. All this accompanied by a wind whistling like a steam engine much too close to the house. So I am, naturally, thinking of Melville writing through the New England storms and telling himself it is time to go topside to pull in the sails and to go below to batten down the hatches. I have a friend who calls my house the “ship house” because this room where I am writing juts out over the steep hill the house is on. and I have some nautical touches brought like flotsam and jetsam from my long life. I tell you, it is dramatic. The TV tells me this is going to be the worst storm of the too many I’ve survived already this winter, but I have a pantry with supplies, and lanterns for possible outages. Days like this bring me close to Melville, Even though I write flash fiction, It is a good day to get in the hammock and read Moby Dick again, but the hammock is out in the storm for what I expect to be a long spell because now it is beginning to rain.
Search the pages for this impeccable original print “Retired from the Sea”in our gallery.