Eugene Rose, the future Seraphim, met Robinson Jeffers on the beach south of Carmel one clear and still day in 1960…no, that won’t work. Real figures are too vital. Using real people in fiction is just a gimmick, and a cheap one at that. Keep the names anyway and some of the details. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely blah blah blah….


“Eugene, not Friday, I’m afraid,” said Eugene as they shook hands. “I’ve seen you walking here the last few days.”

“I live here.”

“My parents just moved to Carmel. I’m visiting them.”

“These cliffs will have the last word.”

We just skipped the small talk. And perhaps the conversation happened over the course of several days with stops and starts.

“You want to be a monk?” asked Jeffers. “And what of war? Surely your God knows we will never be rid of it? Do you ever have doubts? Perhaps this God of yours is not there or is not paying attention to us?”

“What is it, Robinson, that causes these waves to crash, or caused us to meet?”

“Let me tell you a story Eugene. It’s about an animal, to take the human element out of it. A seal pup flopping out of the waves in front of my house. I was writing in my tower but stopped to watch it. Such a cute little thing, solemnly waddling, scooping its head up and down. On the next wave, an adult seal, a large one, surfed in and chopped the pup in half from behind in its mouth. What meaning can you make of that? Here one minute, gone the next, and at the hands of its own kind, presumably a kinsman, so to speak, from the same Carmel group. It was then that I knew the cliffs would win, and I think I jotted it down in my notebook as the pup bled to death. A vicious God or a jesting God, but not a good one, and therefore, I think not one God but many spirits, clashing like Titans until the cliffs win.”

“Why is it about winning, about competition?”

“Because it is. No point in denying it. Deny it and you end up with some scheme even more ridiculous and just as competitive in the end.”

“We are the same, except I perceive an epilogue, the ultimate good and grace.”

The day before Eugene was due to leave Carmel, Robinson invited him in for tea. Una sang him Irish songs, accompanying herself on the piano, and he met the dog and scanned their libraries and went up the tower and Robinson showed him the room in which he died a few months later, having already planned the position of the bed so Point Lobos would be the last thing he saw, and late in the evening at Platina sometimes, when the equation of birch leaves and wind equalled the waves of Carmel in his ears, Eugene prayed for Robinson. To one or two of the bookish American novices, he assigned the poetry as the highest man could reach on his own with only nature as beacon, a man of no God but the cliffs.