Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Carol and I woke in the Emily Dickinson room and went to breakfast in the Tables of Content, putting my birthday presents from yesterday in her car on the way.
I always admire the porch two doors south of the SBH.
I walk around the north side of the hotel and down the ramp to the restaurant; it’s easier for me than the stairs, on which I slow people down.
the hotel’s morning shadow
After the breakfast, delicious as always, we climbed to the library to await the switch to the Jules Verne room on the first floor. We would rather move our luggage than have the housekeepers do it.
“my” blue chair in the third floor library
my view to the south; Carol is still reading The Historian.
At 12:00 or so, we checked into the Verne room. The housekeeping staff had indeed moved most of our luggage down from Emily’s room before we could do it ourselves. (We make sure to leave a good tip in the room each day; the other option is to put a tip in the jar on the front desk.)
The Jules Verne room, which used to be Robert Louis Stevenson. The adjoining door goes to the Tolkien room, and the rooms can be shared if there are friends next door.
over the desk
the door. (The blue pad is the comfy extra sleeping bed that we lug around with us.) That’s the Alice Walker room across the hall.
The luxuriously large bathroom has a wall mural.
A door leads out to a deck by the front door of the hotel. Edna, who used to stay here for weeks at a time in the RLS room, would sit out here and greet guests. I was told some of her ashes are in the garden here.
At the front desk, I talked to the clerk about how much I love Pat Henderson’s journal entries. She showed me a model he has made, and said he has an even more elaborate one in the making.
model by Pat
After we’re settled into Verne, Carol walked down to the Old Town port. I noticed that the Dr. Seuss room was open, so I settled in there to read room journals. This entry spoke to me: “These journals are such a delight. I could read them for hours and hours (as I have).” I am now into day 5 of journal reading and have only shared with you an iota. The most angsty personal posts you will have to go and read yourself; I share the ones that specifically move and inspire and comfort me, and the ones that praise the hotel, but not the most excruciatingly brave and personal ones (even though I eliminate names and even though they are my very favourites of all).
The Dr. Seuss room is where Robert and I stayed when we walked into the hotel on a whim in summer of 1991. (I had read about its author theme in Northwest Best Places.) I found the first journal entry I ever wrote…in doggerel (or catterel) as many Seuss journal entries are written:
I have much more peaceable cats now and they come and go in the bedroom as they please.
view from the Dr. Seuss room
Back up the library, where I read an old journal from the former E.B. White room. I was pleased to find two entries from my also journal obsessed friend Destiny. “I picked up a few of this room’s journals not expecting much, but I have been amazed at the art work. I just hope that NO ONE tears them out for their own selfish pleasure. (My aunt’s lighthouse from a couple of years ago has been stolen.) This is a magical place and the enchantment is returning to see all that you have written over the years. The other amazing thing is that this is such a place for readers and writers.” She adds a postscript: “11 years later, EB White is no more but I still was able to find this journal in the upstairs library—NOW where the bloody hell can the POE journals have gone to?”
I quested into the library attic for more journals (if only I could find the POE journals), and there I discovered a treasure. Tucked in with some jigsaw puzzles was a thin notebook with some book recommendations by hotel owner Goody Cable. I intend to read them all.
I LOVE May Sarton, especially Journal of a Solitude.
A prowl for more journals lead me down to the first floor again and the Agatha Christie room, one where I have stayed with Mary and with Carol.
Agatha Christie’s room is large with north and west windows and a fireplace.
As with the last time I stayed in this room, I searched and searched but could only find one old journal, a very tiny one with a deeply moving first entry by a woman who celebrating her 93rd birthday.
“Remembering: Birthday visit. Agatha Christie Room. Standing on the balcony, I look at the ocean, the every changing, always the same ocean. The ‘wild white horses’ ride the waves only to collapse, powerless now and dead, upon the sand. Three children, hair ruffled by the wind, run, laughing, to meet the waves, squealing with delight as the foam almost, but not quite, reaches their dancing feet.
Gulls, on the wing, scream their anger at the children, and a large brown barking dog cheats them out of their hope of finding food left by the retreating tide. Away they go to a more secluded place, shut off by huge rocks and piles driftwood logs, to peck for their share of the sea’s largesse.
The sun is warm on my shoulders. The sea breeze is cool on my face. My eyes, tiring from the brightness and the constant movement of the water, I go inside to warmth and stillness and a book.
Now it is almost time for the dinner. The cool, clean air has made me hungry. Down we go to the dining room. Soft lighting, good smells, happy people.
Climbing the stairs, I go slowly. Younger feet than mine pass by me but I have grown used to that. One does when one becomes a nonagenarian! Reaching the last step but one, I thankfully accept the strong, young hand held out to lift me up. No longer am I too proud to accept such a gesture. (Once, a long, long time ago, I had been the one to extend that helping hand.)
A book again, an hour or two of reading, then sleep. ”
I have to save this; what if this journal, too, went away and her words were lost forever? After praising the hotel breakfast, she closes with “Perhaps this book can be placed in the intriguing small, old desk in the Agatha Christie room so that later occupants can add their comments on a visit there”, and she signs it “Lovingly, Gertrude Miller” with her address. I would write to her but….another journaler adds, “Gertrude was here in early spring 91 celebrating her 93rd birthday” and that brings tears to my eyes because she must be gone now. Yes, it is easy to cry here, 24 years later, wishing I could meet Gertrude Miller. Thank goodness the book is still in the desk, and is filled with more entries to follow.
I realized that the Wilde room is still open, so I took more journals from it, two at a time with the usual anxiety of getting them returned before a guest checks in. I took them to the library because I’d be embarrassed to be found sitting at the desk in a room guests are checking into. As it turned out, the room is still empty that evening and the worry was unnecessary.
the ever changing view
A most excellent entry: “Opening Oscar’s little desk, I come upon a quote from the writing of an old friend, describing a quiet night with his wife (now dead) by the pond near his home—across the mountain from mine. The sounds and sensations that he notes are familiar to me—the bird calls, that night swooping owl—and thousands of miles away from this rolling seascape—familiar to me also is his thought at the end of the passage, as he strains to identify who/what it is that moves in the forest near the pond and knows ‘that I will never know’. So I am once again open-hearted, terrified and eager to know, at the lip of mystery seeking to name what moves in my heart and knowing that I will never know.”
A frequent visitor wrote: “Time has softened the intense grief I was feeling the last time I was here. There are small compartments in my mind-heart where the memories of departed spirits I have known reside. …I no longer have the constant renewal of their presences in my life. But I’m still grateful for reach life that has touched mine and enriched it. I’m trusting that my spirit does the same for others.”
Yes, your spirit DOES touch and enrich mine.
by “my” window; I posted this photo on the Sylvia Beach Hotel Lovers Facebook page and got this comment: “Hey, someone’s in my chair!”
Another comment in the Wilde journals by someone who is taken, as I am, by P___ L___’s entries about traveling with her bears: “Dear P____ L____, we have bears, too!” She, Pat H and Wild Rose are the most prolific of all the journal writers. I find an entry by Pat H in 2000: “Whatever happened to all those journals entries by P____ L___ of Portland? Did I overlook them? Is she well?” (She did return as late as 2005.)
Pat H. laments the loss of Oscar’s journals. (Yesterday, I read a later entry in which he says they were returned to the room.)
The very first entry in the Wilde journals, by the roomer (room creator:)
3-14-87 “We are now in the middle of the open houses and people are really excited! It’s been fun doing this room. I hope it gives the welcome I’ve hoped for for any one who stays here. There are no bad spirits in this hotel. That’s amazing considering its history. There were so many times during this project when I didn’t think we would go—Goody never gave up. Now we all share the gift.”
Here is one by my favourite journaler, P____ L_____: 12/19/87 “It is brisk and biting out (not as biting as Oscar’s wit, to be sure). This room is a guardian against the cold and a welcome host to this traveler after a walk, and a walk, and a walk on the beach. The town is a stroll away, but this place is like entering a different world—the world of many imaginations. No television, radio, loud noise, smoke, visual pollution, just the hum of reflection and reading. My bear and I are content.“
And another. I love her because she seems so self sufficient and a little eccentric; if I did not have a severe driving phobia, I would go to the SBH alone, a lot: 4/16/88 “This room is more haven to me this time than ever before in the past. My fellow guests are particularly isolationist this weekend, as, perhaps, am I. Much of my reading has been with Oscar, rocking with my bear by the window. I’ve spent a few moments in the library. I had a long beach walk this morning, savoring the mist and tides, and gazing at a solo kite following the sea gulls over the beach. Life at Sylvia Beach is good. I am alone, not lonely, and enjoying my own company.”
Another reader wrote her this message: June 3 1989 “The circumstances which brought me here were not happy but I had a peaceful and enjoyable stay. The most comforting activity was reading in this book the comments of former guests. Life goes on….up and down. A message to P____ L____—I had three bears with me and they send greetings to your bear when you return.” On June 23, P___ was back and wrote a long entry that began “Thank you, Jean’s bears.”
Later that year, someone else wrote to her: “In the midst of the masters, we find journals like these, where we can eavesdrop on each other while we practice our scales. P____ L____, everyone wants to meet your bears. A polaroid perhaps?”
P____ replied on November 23, 1989: “Bear is thrilled with the attention. A polarbearoid? It’s a thought. Katherine was left at home, however, and Edgar Linton, my newest bear, has accompanied me instead. I’m keeping my eye out for Heathcliff. (A black bear, of course.) I’ve much for which to be grateful, including this quiet hideaway. The storm has wrapped the hotel in times past and afforded study time for me. …This may be my last November entry. I get to return with my wonderful daughter next month—probably no bear.”
During the December visit with her daughter (and no bear): “My pig slippers had to take the place of the bear in the skilled housekeeper’s hands and they were arranged in joyful poses on the bed.”
I am so very very happy reading these. I would love to meet her daughter someday.
On 6-19-94, P___ wrote after a stay of several days: “This is the place where my alter ego holds court—and I thrive. I’m leaving and here are the lessons I have learned:
1. Never bring part of the world if I’m trying to get away from it.
2. Time travel is difficult with extra baggage.
I will return at Thanksgiving and will bring only my bears. They may use the trundle bed.”
I love, love, love, love, love her. Love her SO much.
As I read, someone new entered the library, exclaimed at the view, and sat and picked up a journal. She looked immediately absorbed. Would she become a new journal attic? Her husband wanted to check into the room. I wondered if she will return and read more.
the first journal glimpse; I was thrilled when it happened to me.
I was amused to read of people sneaking into other rooms to read journals, just as I do:
a back and forth between sneaking into Oscar Wilde and into Poe.
All Hallow’s Eve 1991: “I spent the afternoon reading much of this journal, and upon seeing the report of ‘lewd’ comments in the Oscar Wilde room, immediately snuck up there to read that one—not cover-to-cover, just a few passages, but no lewdness rewarded me there. Ah well.”
There IS a steamy passage in the 1995 Oscar Wilde journal, and a later entry by the fellow’s girlfriend saying he made it all up!
in the Edgar Allen Poe room in 1991
In hunger, I went to the gift shop and bought myself a snack mix. The library was so quiet that I felt the wrapper made too much noise. Solution: pour all the mix into a cup from the kitchenette. Much politer to other readers.
Sometimes, I just admire the look of a page.
garden view from my library window
Of course, I wanted to have dinner at the hotel. Carol demurred. She said I could go alone, but I often see her only once a year and so I would choose her company over another chance to have a joyous game. I know a great experience with the Game can be had, and have glimpsed it. This time, with the two stilted dinners of the night before, it was not to be. If I could go alone, I’d have the dinner every night in search of a good experience at The Game. It can happen:
Jan 4 1998 “This is a wonderful place. Last night at dinner, we played the ‘game’. At first, not many people wanted to play but then we even went into the lobby to finish playing after dinner was over.”
P___L___had written of what it is like when the game goes well: “Dinner was all too short. Two truths and a lie with five people of various ages, all connected with education, went like a well directed play. All of us were animated and interested.”
So Carol and I went across the street to April’s and had an excellent meal. I did tease Carol when our meal began with a table of three unusually loud children (and two harried parents) next to us by reminding her that the hotel’s guests would have been much quieter.
flowers outside our ground floor room as we leave for dinner
my dinner (the curry salmon, as good as it looks)
sunset through the lobby of the SBH across the street
More reading followed in the library. Every chair was occupied and everyone read quietly and the hot spiced wine was delivered early, shortly after nine. Carol and I were ready and pounced on it! I said to the fellow waiting his turn in the kitchenette, “It used to come at ten o’clock” and he fervently said “I KNOW!” so maybe he, too, had missed out earlier in the week.
an adventurous journal entry
another beautiful page
And here’s my old entry from 2009 going on and on about the journals:
(Note: the dorms are gone now, replaced by a four-bed room and by Goody’s private retreat.)
My love of the journals is a fascination shared by others:
“I really love coming up the stairs to this room. Had dinner, enjoyed the hot mulled wine and then finally we found the ‘treasure’ of this room. These JOURNALS. How awesome to be able to read so many thoughts and experiences from others I have not met, yet I feel somehow we are connected by the fact that we ended up here and we all seem to share the same delight when writing of this place. It is a treasure. An Oasis, and perfect place to self-reflect.”
June 00: “This is what my Narnia would be like: a closet door that opens to this place—into Wilde or Dickinson or Austen, or any of the others—so that whenever I worry too much and small, silly things start to make me sad, I could escape for awhile and be here instead. Writing and reading are my sanctuaries. A book, a fireplace, the ocean outside, and an orange cat who demands to be let into my room so he can spend the night on the foot of the bed. It’s enough.”
The orange cat would have been Dickens, here in 2012.
“I am beguiled by this thing I am doing….I am writing a message to a completely unknown person. I know you are out there. I have been fascinated with reading these journal entries and I see there are others who share this fascination….It is mentioned in the writing and in fact there are ‘conversations’ going on between unknown people who don’t know it’s going on. How marvelous! So I wonder who you are. Yes, you, the person reading this. Well, I guess we have some things in common….We like to read journals….we like books…we like the ocean. I feel you are someone who feels peaceful and whole and more real and fully alive when you can spend time on the beach. I am very much that way.”
“I think one of my favourite things has been reading the journals. Many times I wonder what has happened to the people that come through and would love to hear their continuing stories.”
Destiny: “The first night I was here I stayed by all night reading all the journals I could find. (Where do the old journals go? The attic?) It was a brilliant night.”
Down to the Verne room Carol and I went after our wine, where we read till one AM.
my reading view
I wrote a journal entry with the very cool Verne room pen.
Verne journal art
jellyfish nightlight with changing colours
on the bathroom ceiling
Verne room books
Thursday, 19 March 2015
The Verne room is famous in the journals for the rushing sound of water from its pipes. I’d read about it in many entries in the Robert Louis Stevenson room journals. Back when it was the Stevenson room, the suggestion was often written that it should be the 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea Room. So now it is, and I found that the torrents of rushing water during people’s morning toilettes gave me an intensely sound sleep between 7 and 9 AM. I had been looking forward to the pipes experience and it surpassed my expectations in volume. Others have enjoyed it, too: “I think this is the most inspired room. Well done! Every detail was great. Even hearing all the water rushing through pipes (old building plumbing) seemed like part of the 20,000 Leagues experience.”
in the dining room for our last breakfast
ah, the peach kuchen and the lemon bars…I will miss them.
a scrumptious baked egg entree
Carol at the car in the SBH lot across the street while I contemplate the weedy garden (full of bindweed) and fantasize about bringing it back to glory…
but the bindweed would be a fierce foe. That’s my only thought about actually gardening for the last five days.
To my delight, Carol wanted to go for a walk so I got to return to the hotel library to read for another hour or more.
passing our little deck off the Verne room (which made it easy to haul our our luggage)
in the library, my chair, and two EB White room journals to read.
my north view, soon to be left behind
west view: a little boat
We couldn’t have the cat visit us as Carol is slightly allergic.
My own worries have been quiet for days…
So what are some of my takeaways of the inspiration that I sought by coming here? Well, this one of course:
from Pat Henderson
This is the way I try to be…unobtrusive but productive.
I had some dark times in 2014. Better now.
inspired to be strong and despite scary setbacks, do what I can do for as long as possible
Hold on to my individual self-respect.
move on, emotionally let go of the former friends who shunned me, don’t miss the time that is left for me.
My friend Destiny says: read more, write more, live more, love more.
live in hope
be kinder (something I already strive for)
Of course, I don’t want to go, and I understand the alleged actions of this couple:
They did get dragged out, because they wrote that in the Dickinson journal and Carol and I stayed in that room on Tuesday night. I might have seen some claw marks on the doorjamb as they held on…
Like all journal writers and readers, I hope all future guests have the same depth of experience here as I did.
The most important piece of enlightenment is an old one. I must return more often even though it is three and a half hours from home.
Read Full Post »