A few weeks before he passed away, Toru Takemitsu wrote postcards to his friends with a poignant message concerning his approaching reincarnation.
“I’d like to become a whale that swims in an ocean that knows no east nor west.”
I’ve reflected on this idea often since my friend Peter Grilli made me aware of Takemitsu’s last thoughts. As you know, I’ve been traveling up Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Big Sur for an important meeting about the next LA International New Music Festival. Jan and I have been talking about Elliott Carter with his friend Virgil Blackwell near Pt. Lobos and Big Sur. Composing brilliantly until 103, Carter is one of the greats. There is a sage wisdom in all the late works waiting to be explored. And we will be doing just that as part of future festivals.
Finding Carter in Big Sur and Pt. Lobos felt just right.
The vast beauty of the Pacific coastline in California is always an inspiration. It’s provided the perfect backdrop to reflect on the life transitions from knowing Carter to accepting his death to the next steps as we move forward.
But this is the first time I’ve traveled Highway 1 since visiting the Eastern Coast of Taiwan in 2011. Since my blog is now followed in 75 countries around the world, I thought a back and forth photo journey juxtaposing both coasts would be appreciated. Because my festival bridges cultures, as does my home state of California, I thought I’d focus on actual bridges.
Tropic of Cancer, anyone?
The sense that the western world comes to its natural end as California meets the Pacific is always with me when I’m on this road. Between Hollywood, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter all being headquartered here, you are all in California. And our heart is on this beloved coastline.
But leave it to Asia to truly turn up the mythology surrounding sacred places in nature. Welcome to the Dragon Bridge to the Island of the Three Immortals, Sanxiantai, on Taiwan’s Eastern Coast.
As you head up the Taiwanese coast, you will reach the marker for the Tropic of Cancer. I didn’t snap a photo as the place was engulfed in a tourist bus, though our traveling was smooth. But the shadowless noonday sunshine of a tropical summer with the sun directly overhead is along this coastline.
Tropic of Cancer Synchronicity? I’m not sure, but I really think there are only facts and not coincidences. Soon after the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, you can visit the digs of the author of Tropic of Cancer (Paris is hard to shake…).
Back to Taiwan. Legend has it that three saints, Lyu-Dongbin, Li Tieguai and He-Xiangu landed at this spot on Taiwan’s Eastern Coast, and left three enormous footprints marking their destination. The metaphor for being home is wonderful and the Sanxiantai Bridge, built in 1987 (yes, old traditions are still alive), connects the land to the islands of the immortals.
As you proceed north up the East Coast of Taiwan you will come to the Baxian Caves. The ride is much easier than our Highway 1, though often as high in altitude but when you climb you are not close to the water, the ocean is off in the distance. When you arrive at Baxian, you are greeted by Guanyin, Buddha’s great counterpart, who answers all prayers.
Back to California. As you approach Big Sur, it’s good (when coming from the south) to pull over and look back. You will have the best rear view mirror images of your life and if you are driving it gets a bit frustrating to stay focused on the highway!
And for good measure take time to look forward as well!
The message of all of this is simple. I prize mystery as much as evidence.
In a world where all things must be explained through studies and statistics we often veer off course in ways far more distracting than taking time on the roads of Big Sur or Taiwan’s East Coast. I dream of ideas, and to do that I need a clear mind. Carl Jung once postulated that the oceans and lakes of our planet symbolize our unconscious mind. I don’t brush my teeth with these types of thoughts but do know that without mystery there is no music.
I am now in San Francisco and able to write easily, so the blog posts will come in a timely manner with our journey behind us.
Now is not the time for formal announcements, but our meeting for the next LA International New Music Festival was productive and exciting. Doesn’t everybody like surprises? Stay connected!
But the juxtapositions of Taiwan and California are inspiring me so keep following my blog. Taroko Gorge or Pt Lobos, which is the better destination? Not a good question!
One thing is for sure. It is the Pacific – one ocean, two coasts. More to come…
Best, best, best,