That summer, Lew decided to get a fresh start by building his own cabin on land in the Sierra foothills near Snyder's homestead. We would be the work crew. Lew wrote us letters outlining our duties. I would be the camp cook. (Lew was no student of feminism.) Dan and our friend Steve Nemirow '71, another Reed poet and then an apprentice stone mason, would help with the heavy construction. We were to show up in early August, when the building materials would have arrived. I remember Lew was worried about the financial outlay, worried about running the show. |
When the semester ended, I went down to Los Angeles for a quick visit with my folks. I was exhausted from too many all-nighters. The first day home I slept late, settling down at noon for breakfast. I picked up the L.A. Times lying on the kitchen table. In a little paragraph in regional news, I noticed a bolded headline: SEARCH OFF FOR MISSING BEAT GENERATION POET. My heart lurched. The brief article described how the poet Lew Welch had been missing for a week in the Sierra foothills. On May 23, apparently in a deep depression, the article said, Welch took his revolver and walked away into the forest. His body has never been found.
When August rolled around, instead of working on Lew's cabin, Dan and I decided to get married at Cape Foulweather on the Oregon coast. We assembled our family and friends at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. We stood in a circle: our friends from Mist Farm in their tattered best, my father in a suit, my grandmother wrapped in a pink blanket, Elwha Pootel sporting a red yarn on his collar. We read one of Lew's poems as part of the ceremony: