Zensights provides a space for gentle contemplation in a world filled with hectic action and stressed-out situations.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hemingway's Key West

I am not sure exactly what mystique continues to surround Ernest Hemingway--for me at least; but whenever I am in Key West, I will find myself drawn to Hemingway haunts--the docks near Turtle Kraals, The Pelican Poop, above which was his first apartment in Key West, Captain Tony's which is the first Sloppy Joe's Tavern, and St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Catholic Church where Ernest was a member. But the most meaningful place for me is Hemingway's House which has been lovingly preserved. Here is where I spend a morning basking in the wonderful, sunny air that permeates the compound. I suppose part of the magic is that Hemingway lived such a "writer-ish" life--writing everyday, a seven pencil day being a good one even if it only made one perfect sentence. Oh, that I could write such sentences!

Ernest was very disciplined in developing and nurturing his craft, and, like the writer that I try to be, he suffered his fair share of rejection. This was especially true when he lived in poverty in Paris as he waited for his stories to find publishing homes. He seemed to have found an audience in France and Germany long before he made it in the States.

For me, Ernest's appeal, beyond his writing ability, is found in all the interesting things that he did so that he might have things about which to write. He was an ambulance driver in the First World War. He lived for about 5 years in Paris with Hadley, his first wife, and John "Bumby," his infant son. Ernest was the great fisherman when he lived in Key West and in Cuba, and he was quite the hunter when he traveled to Africa. Add to that the tales of his drinking, his rubbing elbows with the famous people of the day, his tempestuous relationships with women, and his eventual tragic suicide, and you have a rare, larger-than-life character whose life was every bit as interesting as his books.

Still, while I was surrounded by the lush green palms and tropical plants of the Hemingway House on the corner of Whitehead and Olivia, I felt a quiet, thoughtful presence--maybe just my imagination running wild--as I could almost see Ernest's form moving among the cats that sauntered aimlessly about the verdant grounds. I could almost see Ernest climbing to his writer's studio above the garage where he takes a seat at his typewriter and begins a masterpiece.

This year I enjoyed my fifth visit to the Hemingway House Museum in Key West, Florida, and for the fifth time, I felt transported to a different time and reality, one where the word is valued and revered, and writers are the celebrities of the day. And I always love being in this hallowed place, so that I might walk in the footsteps of one of the great American writers--Ernest Hemingway.