August 28th, 2010
Dear Fellow Travelers,
George Hitchcock, poet, painter, teacher, editor, publisher of Kayak books and magazine, playwright, actor, political activist, fiction writer, and friend died last night at eleven o’clock in his home in Eugene, Oregon. His companion, the poet Marjorie Simon, was with him, as she has been for the last thirty-eight. He was 96.
Though I’ve expected this news for many years, now that it’s come it seems unreal. My morning meditation today consisted of a river-run of images and memories of George. He seems very near, but he has seldom felt far from me since we met in winter, 1972.
Mostly I’m hearing his rich, expressive voice, his laugh. I see him at his mountain home in Bonny Doon, gruffly taking me in after I’d missed a ride back to town after an evening class. I see many images of him at the Victorian home he and Marjorie purchased at 325 Ocean View Avenue in Santa Cruz, California. These include the Kayak magazine collating parties, the beautiful gardens he tended, visits and card games in the parlor that gently consumed whole days and evenings, theatrical events (George directing Playboy of the Western World at UCSC’s Barn Theater, George playing a memorable Falstaff outdoors during a season at the Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival), George holding court at cook-outs and bocce parties, and more formal but still raucous dinner parties in the dining room. I see Kevin Brennan, George, and I together on the side porch, running lines, discussing politics and real estate, sharing jokes, and urging George to tell us stories about his early days in the Merchant Marine, acting at ACT, and writing for left wing labor newspapers and magazines.
I’m remembering George’s timing, which was as good as I’ve ever witnessed in anyone. I remember his tough love, which made you better, smarter, and wiser (if you listened) in anything you were doing.
But mostly I’m remembering how lively he was, how commanding his presence, but then how gentle and caring and kind he truly was. George was generous, always an artist, and humble, even though he seemed to know everything. As a teacher and mentor, he shaped and guided countless lives; as a friend he was special. I was lucky to know him deeply in both roles. I know I have a lot to experience in the weeks and months ahead as I become accustomed to this new stage of our relationship, but today I’m sharing with you the sweetness of remembering, and just a bit of the magic that was George Hitchcock.
Here is a playful poem of his that has always made me smile.
Today I sat
on my knee.
* * * * * * * * * *
So, We’ll Go No More A-roving
So, we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions is available at my website, at www.IndieBound.org, www.amazon.com, www.b&n.com, or easily ordered at your local bookstore. Thank you for supporting this work.