Start of Charis days, Excerpt from last few pages of Daybooks. Happy reading.
24. “Peace to enjoy, fulfill, this beauty—”
December 9, 1934. I have not opened this book for almost 8 months,—and with
good reason; I have been too busy, busy living. I notice the last entry was 4-20.
On 4-22 a new love came into my life, a most beautiful one, one which will,
I believe, stand the test of time.
I met C. [Charis Wilson]—a short time before going South on the P.W.A.P.
work, saw her at a concert, was immediately attracted, and asked to be intro
duced. I certainly had no conscious designs in mind at the time, but I am not
in the habit of asking for introductions to anyone which means that the attraction
was stronger then than I realized. I saw this tall, beautiful girl, with finely
proportioned body, intelligent face well-freckled, blue eyes, golden brown hair
to shoulders,—and had to meet. Fortunately this was easy. Her brother was
already one of my good friends, which I, of course, did not know.
I left for the south before our paths crossed again. While there a letter from S.
said she had a new model for me, one with a beautiful body. It was C.------ Poor
S.------ How ironical. But what happened was inevitable.
The first nudes of C. were easily amongst the finest I had done, perhaps the
finest. I was definitely interested now, and knew that she knew I was. I felt a
response. But I am slow, even when I feel sure, especially if I am deeply moved.
I did not wait long before making the second series which was made on April
22, a day to always remember. I knew now what was coming; eyes don’t lie
and she wore no mask. Even so I opened a bottle of wine to help build up my
ego. You see I really wanted C. hence my hesitation.
And I worked with hesitation; photography had a bad second place. I made
some eighteen negatives, delaying always delaying, until at last she lay there
below me waiting, holding my eyes with hers. And I was lost and have been
ever since. A new and important chapter in my life opened on Sunday afternoon,
April 22, 1934.
After eight months we are closer together than ever. Perhaps C. will be remem
bered as the great love of my life. Already I have achieved certain heights
reached with no other love.
Domestic relations have been severely strained, quite to the breaking point,
casting a shadow over my association with C. A change must take place and
soon. I must have peace to enjoy, fulfill, this beauty.
Carmel, April, 22, 1944
April 22, 1944. —Carmel—Ten years ago today on a Sunday afternoon was the
beginning; now Charis and I are married, have been for five years. This is the
first entry in my once-well-kept daybook since 1934. I laughingly blame Ch.
for cramping my style as a writer—and there may be some truth in this charge—
but the fact is that I have not had much time, nor necessary aloneness for keeping
an intimate journal.
In no period of my life has there been a comparable series of important events,
coming one upon another as if to crowd into ten years all that might happen
to some in a lifetime. I doubt if I can take time to recall more than the high
lights of these years, or scratch the surface of all the changes which in turn
have changed me, colored my thoughts, directed my actions. Without com
ment—not until in some later entry explanation is necessary—
I will write down some of the outstanding events and experiences of these
missing ten years; incidents, of course, especially concerning me. It will be
obvious soon enough—if I go on writing—what such a cataclysm as the war
has done to me. So this list, without too much pride and with shameless prejudice.
1935: I left my Carmel, once-happy-home, and moved to S. Monica where
Brett and I with Cole and Neil set up housekeeping with an eye open for sit
tings. 1936: Charis came to live with me. 1937: I received a Guggenheim
Fellowship, the first ever granted a photographer; renewal in 1938. We traveled
35,000 miles mostly through California as told in that exciting book California
and the West by Charis Wilson Weston—so well-told that I need not recount
any of the Guggenheim period. 1938: Moved to Carmel Highlands because of
H. L’s [Harry Leon Wilson, writer, father of Charis] sickness. Neil built us a
one-big-room house which Walter Arensberg calls the palatial shack. 1938:
divorced Flora after 16 years separation. 1939: married Charis after 5 years of
sin. 1941: Contract with Limited Editions Club Inc., N. Y. to illustrate Leaves
of Grass', we travel cross-country for 10 months covering 20,000 miles, 24 states,
from the old South to Maine. This story will also be told, God and Charis
willing. Travel was done during a national emergency. When war broke out we
scurried home. Charis did not want to scurry. I did.
Many deaths have saddened these last 10 years, but two were especially poignant
to me—Tina and Ramiel. Tina returned to Mexico to die. Ramiel went to
sleep in his little Redondo home, after a long painful struggle. Tina and Ramiel,
always linked in my mind, always clasped to my heart.
“Oh, there will pass with your great passing
Little of beauty not your own,—”
Edna St. Vincent Millay
One birth has gladdened; Erica, born to Brett and Cicely, my first granddaugh
ter, and the first girl in the family.
Something almost worse than death came to my only sister Mary—a stroke
which crippled her right side. She has come through in heroic fashion, learning
to write with left hand, learning to walk, to talk.