Tag Archives: Poetry

Sweet Friendship

My wife and I went to visit the Huntington in San Marino this past weekend and I’ve been trying to remember the occasion of my first visit and what my memory has suggested is that it was on a field trip while I was in the sixth grade and attending the South Bay Junior Academy in Torrance. That would have been in 1966 and I was, to say the least, awed by the experience and fell in love with the Japanese Garden and the portraits of The Blue Boy and Pinkie, for which I envisioned a deep love between them such as what I felt for my classmate Bonnie Jean.

The Huntington remained in my mind although I did not possess the means for a revisit for several years. I turned fifteen in August of 1969 and the following month my older brother and I went halves on the purchase of a motorcycle and since he was then serving in the Coast Guard that meant the bike was mostly mine and one of the first places I rode to was the Huntington where I refreshed my memory of the two young portraits then ate lunch on the grass beside the Koi pond.

On my second motorcycle ride to the Huntington a week later a young woman who either worked or volunteered there stopped me by the gift shop and bookstore to ask about the red book I carried along with my sack lunch. I was embarrassed by her curiosity at first but explained it was a book of Romantic Era Poetry and featured such poets as Coleridge, Scott, Moore, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hood, Landor, and Praed. I also explained that I enjoyed sitting by the Koi pond to eat my lunch and read poetry. Diana joined me that day and I read some of my favorite poems of Keats and Shelley to her and then she borrowed my book and read to me some of her favorite poems by Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron.

During my fifteenth year I was to make frequent trips to the Huntington and my new friend Diana, who was a full-time student at Pasadena City College, would join me by the Koi pond. She introduced me to a cadre of poets I hadn’t yet experienced like Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, Ann Radcliffe, Ana Seward, Felicia Hemens, along with many others. In time we even became brave enough to read each other our own poetic creations and congratulate each other on our brilliance.

Now summers melt into fall, which ices into winter and then thaws into spring and with that last change of seasons into the following summer my Huntington friend went off to University and I set about on the path of finding myself and transitioning into manhood. In that year of sweet friendship the two of us never went beyond first names, nor did we ever exchange phone numbers or addresses, and we never met anywhere other than at the Huntington. What we did exchange was a love of the Japanese Garden, of the Romantic Era Poetry, and the gift of each other’s voice.

As I think back to those days when I normally disguised and hid myself behind different personas and pseudonyms I recall, that to Diana, I was Sam, not Steven or Nick, but just me unmasked and to her I bared my innermost feelings through my own Lyric Poetry with all its angst and pain as she in turn did with me, without judgment, without condemnation, without obligation, and given the human condition for what it is, that was a rare experience.

Now, forty-five years later, I still possess that 1934 printing of Romantic Poetry and, the truth be told, it is one of only a handful of artifacts I retain from my adolescence. While the memories of Diana’s face and voice have dissolved into blurred reflections with the passage of time, the memory of that sweet friendship fortunately lingers and I am grateful for how it helped to shape the character of the man I became.

Time Travel

I returned abruptly to the present at 6:08 am. It was painful to say the least. In fact, I continued to lie in my bed until 7:30 hoping to reclaim just a small piece of the wonder that I had been enjoying.

I was way back in the yesterdays with my first best friend, the first person I remember loving, and that one person that once asked me for something that I did not possess at the time. In last night’s escape we journeyed on the back of my time machine from the southern Arizona desert, where a praying monk once blessed us while bats gathered nectar from the night blooming flowers of the saguaros, to the Canadian Rockies where Alberta and British Columbia are divided by some of the most spectacular scenery on our little planet. What a Joy it was to pilot my Magna through the mountains with her once again holding tight about my waist, combating the wind by shouting into my ear on the Trans-Canadian Highway; Yoho, Golden, Kimbasket Lake, and her long hair blowing in the wind. Freedom, as it was meant to be.

I once read an article by a physicist who claimed that time travel was theoretically possible but it would require more energy to pull off than was contained within our visible universe. That is probably a very good thing as I loathe imagining how much more we could screw up with our simian brains. I for one have never really been able to wrap my mind around this dimension of time because, from my perspective, there is only the eternal Now and this human construct of time is simply a yardstick by which we measure the distance between events.

But, I’m thankful for my little time travels when I’m fortunate to be blessed by them. To be able to once again enjoy the company of those whose corporal experiences were cut way too short is nothing short of a miracle. Carol took her own life on Monday, December 13, 1976 and there is not a day goes by that I don’t have a thought and a prayer for my first best friend.

Escape

Concealed from life in dreary black linen
Abject love lies in endless decay.
Robbed of life by that curious demon,
On shadowy wings of Cimmerian gray.

Legended by ancestral states, to usher
Journeys to unfamiliar lands, where helpless
On the shores of your Stygian master,
You yearn for love you cannot possess.

Haunted by a silent phantom, my vague
Apparition of virgin splendor
Resurrects anew our relative plague
Released forever from social dolor.

In suicide a life is squandered,
Surrendered, but, forever remembered.

Samuel Thomas Nichols
January 31, 1979