Further Down Memory Lane

Unless you keep practicing your meditation, the mind goes where it will. But that’s okay, too, because sometimes wanderings are more interesting than where you were originally headed, and certainly more interesting than the places the media would lead you.

If you follow this log, you will have noticed a nostalgic tendency the last few days. I didn’t start out that way, but has certainly gone that way. For me, at least, that somehow seems appropriate because that is what I have most loved about the internet since its early days. Jumping from link leads to some strange, but interesting, places like The Fruitlog – a British Eccentric or dle@pitas-zen,bukowski,fishing, hammering ants and staring at the sun-what else is there?…. You can’t expect much more from life.

Pulling out some of my oldest poetry books, I found one by Nelson Bentley, one of my favorite professors, the only one ever to give me the confidence to write my own poems. Perhaps because of this, I didnât appreciate his poems nearly as much as they deserved to be. I was doubly pleased, though, when I found a website devoted to his memory at Friends of Nelson

Re-reading Sea Lion Caves I was pleasantly surprised to find a poem about Cannon Beach, long my favorite place on the Oregon coast, long before it became the yuppie destination that it is today.

Cannon Beach

Who love these rocks have studied to endure.

The tall waves roar

And break their whitest on those basalt snags:

Foam mounts like wings

Out of a sound unchanged since Genesis.

The ocean heaves the weight of time ashore:
The rocks stand sheer.
White seafowl slowly skim immobile nests.
Fish blue with warts,
Eyes glazed by water, swim under the blue surface.

Where one black monolith makes immortal thrust
And waves smash most,
Light like a halo holds the primitive tip.
From cape to cape
That rigid word orders the surge of chaos.

Nelson Bentley from Sea Lion Caves

I doubt that I was ready for this poem when I read it in college, but today it seems to capture what I have most loved about the beach.

The roaring of the surf is the ultimate meditation, endlessly pulsing, the very sound of blood rushing through your veins, the blood of Gaia.

What better symbol of endurance than this "black monolith" that juts out into the water, the prow of our continent, withstanding the ravages of time .

5 thoughts on “Further Down Memory Lane”

  1. Gosh Loren, thanks for the rush of memories: sea yes, tip yes, and mostly NB – yes! It’s been a long time since I’ve read one of his poems. I agree, we were so involved in ourselves that we didn’t appreciate his own poetry enough. This is such a good poem. He was a wonder, inspiring all of us to write and write some more. I enjoy your web page which responds so warmly and interestingly to different poets you’re reading. When were you in the English Department?

    Thanks for reminding me of Nelson and his work.

  2. I was at “the U” from September 1960 until June of 1964.

    I also returned after Vietnam to earn my teaching credentials, some time in ’67 or ’68, though that date isn’t as easy to remember because it didn’t follow the nice, neat pattern of my earlier school days.

  3. Nelson was one of my favorite professors at the UW. I took every class I could from him during the early 1960’s because he was gentle man, superb teacher, and genuinely loved poetry…which he taught in a most unusal way. I saw him on the Ave
    for years after that.

    In class it was less professor and student than it was two friends exploring a poem..each giving and each taking from the other. Never knew another one like him. He is special in my heart.

    Doug Thiel 6/9/07

  4. I was on the UW campus in the late 70’s. I remember this big bear of a man walking through Red Square, wiping the sweat off his brow from the walk and the sunshine that day. He made an impression and it was later I learned he was Nelson Bentley. I found a book of his poetry in one of the local bookstores around campus and it was his poetry that started me on discovering all the many poets that have come out of the UW and the Pacific Northwest. To this day I’m sorry I never made the time to take one of his poetry classes – or even think about taking one. I understand why he was such a favorite to so many people.

  5. Ah, Nelson Bentley, what a wonderful man. I met my late husband in his Northwest Poets class in the late seventies, and named my second son “Nelson.” He is missed.

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