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Cascais 1969

Cascais, Portugal, 6 October 1969

Dearest Mother,

The chestnut trees are beginning to lose their leaves and the chestnut vendors are appearing on the street corners.  The smoke from their charcoal braziers is part of the smell of winter in the city [Lisbon].

I have moved to a pension in the city—but the noise and the fumes and the insane traffic are almost more than I can bear.  I come back to Cascais every day to swim.  I am almost alone at the beach now and the water that was so tranquil during the summer has become wild and restless.  However, that doesn’t keep me from swimming—and the ocean temperature is actually warmer now. 

When I leave the train at the station in Cascais and walk along the Alameda Duquesa de Palmela I feel my spirit renewed.  Instead of the incessant roar of machines one can hear the murmur of the ocean—and the crow of a rooster.  There are palms and oleanders and chestnuts, a great stone house with towers, balconies and grills over its windows.  Inside the wall is a garden-Mediterranean style—with geometrical hedges and walks and arbors, just like the gardens I used to imagine as a child.  

The old streets of Cascais (like all the fishing villages I’ve seen here) are narrow and winding—Moorish style.  On the way to the beach I pass a typical small shop with marble floors, tile walls, boxes of fruits and vegetables on the floor, wreaths of onions and peppers hanging from the walls, several cages with canaries and a little red rooster hopping around freely.

There is a tiny ancient church nearby, built of stone and carved and ornamented in a charming fashion.  It survived the terrible earthquake of 1755 and the resulting tidal waves stopped just short of it.  It’s no longer used and is closed up tight.

The genuine mixes with the artificial here—like plastic flowers on the rough wooden table of a fisherman’s house.  The trouble with the tourists is that they come for pleasure—they come to look.  They’re always outside and they’re always disrupting—even with the best of intentions.  They come to spend money freely—and how does that appear, for example, to a hardworking fisherman who has to risk his life everyday to earn his daily bread?  There are so many poor here.  As yet they are honest and kind, for the most part, and treat the tourist well.  But of course just like everywhere else, they’ll learn to prosper by being dishonest.

The machine will take over—the desire for an automobile, a refrigerator etc etc.

Why am I here?  How can it be justified?  Perhaps it can’t—but it can be explained.  I agree with you that my place is in America.  I know that I must return.

Don’t forget one thing… You grew up knowing the west—part of its frontier life.  I never was part of it.  I knew tropical islands and the very edge of the continent, belonging more to the sea than to the land.  Americans are represented by New Yorkers, or conservative New Englanders, or stolid Iowa farmers—Middlewesterners with German backgrounds—all these people are much more alien to me than Latins are—whose emotional warmth and way of being I find easy to respond to.  Even you, my own mother, have a much more Latin nature than a typical American mother.

But aside from the personal attraction to Latin cultures, my being here has been a search.  I had to experience and understand other cultures in order to understand my own better.  I sense so many things wrong with the world.

Yes, we are living in a time of revolution.  The trouble is that no one really understands that revolution or has any idea about how to direct it or how to create a better society in place of the old mess.  The young people are rebelling against the mindless, spiritually and physically empty consumer-machine society that we have developed—but they are so lost—trying to escape into drugs and sex. 

What is my role in this world?  I still am not sure.  I do know that a woman has a primary responsibility to her family-otherwise the whole society falls apart…

The relationships between complex people are bound to be complex.  Too often one is bound by infantile needs—instead of mature responsibilities.  Misunderstandings build up.  It takes a long time to understand oneself and life doesn’t wait.  I feel that my place is with Joe—but it is very difficult.  He wanted a strange and complex wife—and then wanted her to be satisfied with cooking elaborate meals, entertaining and enjoying cocktail parties—and staying out of the intellectual world (except as a hostess) of which he was a part. 

However, men have enough problems in the world and their wives should not be additional ones.  Someone has to make sacrifices.  The woman should be loving and comforting and give a great deal on the personal level. 

So you’re back in Ramona!  I don’t like the fact that you have that long drive when you want to go to San Diego or Ocean Beach.  It’s so isolated!  

I am still waiting for that letter from Mary.  Love to all—you, Leo, Mary, Bobby, Bob.

Glad

Cascais 1969

On the beach at Cascais, November 1969

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