D.H. Lawrence & Taos, New Mexico

D. H. Lawrence Ranch Taos New MexicoWhile giving a book reading recently in Taos, New Mexico, I drove one day about twenty miles north of Taos to the D. H. Lawrence Ranch.

Lawrence was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century – author of “Sons and Lovers”, “The Rainbow”, “Women in Love”, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, and other numerous novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction.

He was British, but ended up traveling the world, and was himself world-renowned.

He was given a 160 acre ranch in 1924 north of Taos, and although, in total, he was able to spend only about a year at the ranch, New Mexico, of all the places he had traveled to in the world, made a very deep impression on him.  He wrote:

“But for a greatness of beauty I have never experienced anything like New Mexico.  All those mornings when I went with a hoe along the ditch to the Canyon, at the ranch, and stood, in the fierce, proud silence of the Rockies, on their foothills, to look far over the desert to the blue mountains away in Arizona, blue as chalcedony, with the sage-brush desert sweeping grey-blue in between, dotted with tiny cube-crystals of houses, the vast amphitheatre of lofty, indomitable desert, sweeping round to the ponderous Sangre de Christo mountains on the east, and coming up flush at the pine dotted foothills of the Rockies!  What splendor!  Only the gawny eagle could really sail out into the splendor of it all.  It had a splendid, silent, terror, and a vast far-and-wide magnificence…way beyond mere aesthetic appreciation.  Never is the light more pure and overweening than there, arching with a royalty almost cruel over the hollow uptilted world.  Those that have spent morning after morning alone there pitched among the pines above the great proud world of desert will know how unbearably beautiful it is, how clear and unquestioned is the might of the day.”

His books, of course, were a record of his life.  He was seeking all his life.  He moved restlessly around the planet, trying to find his home, the place where he could feel really connected; and the connection he was looking for, in the end, was not just a particular place, but rather a connection to all of life and to the universe itself.

It was in his striving in this regard that was so poignant. Everything that he ever wrote was filled with this passionate craving for a new world, a world grounded in facts and daily life, but imbued also with eternity.

His longing knew no end.  He felt the hollowness of our materialistic Western civilization, he knew it was over, was crashing, but there was nothing yet to take its place – no new vivid realm of life.

In his book, “Studies in Classical American Literature”, he wrote:

“Men are free when they are in a living homeland, not when they are straying and breaking away.  Men are free when they are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief.  Obeying from within.  Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, believing community; active in fulfilling some unfulfilled, perhaps unrealized purpose.  Not when they are escaping to some wild west.”

He searched for a door that might open up this homeland for him, but he found it only in deep personal relationships – the relationship of a man and a woman, and small groups of people, like a tiny ship floating upon the flood of life and death, awaiting the recession of waters, and the long awaited new land.

He thought that our civilization had really come to an end.  But he never lost faith in life itself.

“What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his “soul.” Man wants his physical fulfillment first and foremost, since now, once and once only, he is in the flesh and potent. For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. In my own very self, I am part of my family. There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.”

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and holding readings and talks under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

Follow the journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

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