I am home again, back in the Midwest. Greeting me this morning is an article in the New York Times that sparks thoughts and memories. The journalist writes of visiting places where Hemingway has lived.
I have also walked in Hemingway’s footsteps this past year, not intentionally – but now I ask myself was it really so unplanned? Hasn’t there been a thread of Hemingway-ness weaving itself through my life ever since I was a teenager?
Around the time of my first visit to France at the age of 17, I read a lot of the classics, including most of Hemingway’s work. It was A Moveable Feast that appealed to my romantic vision of Paris. I also had a coffee-table type book called Hemingway’s Paris with photos of iconic Left Bank streets and cafes. I don’t remember the text at all, just those pictures that I looked at again and again.
This Hemingway-ness, of course, is complicated: the machismo, alcoholism, suicide – he was a messy, complex, difficult, talented guy, and not particularly my cup of tea anymore. Yet, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still hold power. His spirit reigns wherever he lived. I’ve never been to Key West or Idaho (read the aforementioned NYTimes article for references to those places). However, I’ve been wandering his old stomping grounds all summer in Paris. And this time last year I was in Cuba. One stop on our People-to-People tour was Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigia, outside the fishing village of Cojimar, near Havana. Walking the grounds and peering into his house, I experience a familiar sensation. Just as Paris does, Cuba has a soul and something that the word “beauty” is too impotent to describe. Here you feel the intoxicating cocktail of aliveness in your heart, brain, gut and all of your five senses. Hemingway spent his life in these places, created his art, and wrestled his demons.
Hemingway’s ghost is here. I’m glad. Because it was his words that first articulated an idea that continues to inspire me: that life can be glorious, at least for a brief time. And that moment is always worth chasing.
“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” A Moveable Feast