Imago lacus

The picture above was taken by a dear friend, the American poet Debra Kang Dean (please do not use it without permission). I met Debra three years before, when I went to Walden to work with his late husband Brad, a great Thoreau scholar. Once we spent hours tracking this quotation: "Some men go fishing all their lives without ever realizing it's not fish they are after." We concluded that Thoreau never wrote it, but si non è vero...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Steve Morse in memoriam

It is late, but I’d like to offer a few lines about this man with my sincere condolences to Deanne and the Morse family, and all their friends in Boston. In summer of 2008 I spent a productive and refreshing month in Steve and Deanne’s house at Powell Street, and it was a joy to share that time with them. Steve was the most amazing host I have ever had, and we had breakfast together everyday. He was inquisitive, gentle and full of life. He loved to chat, but was a good listener (as shown in the picture, in which he is listening to one of his grandchildren, of whom he was so proud). He would put an orange or a grapefruit on the table, add some tea and a scone from his favorite bakery, and ask me “an idea of the exact state or ruin of things in Spain”, as Thoreau put it in Walden. Then we would plan our day, and go to work each on different ways. But there was always more chat in the afternoon.

He showed me places in Boston and Brookline, and once drove me to Walden Pond, where I had lived in 1998 and 1999. We had a sandwich in Main Street while we talked about Thoreau, and another time I invited him to one Japanese restaurant he was keen to know, and we were lucky enough to get in. He respected poetry, spoke about it with a neighbor, and mentioned that Derek Alcott had more than once been a guest at the house. When he knew that I worked in a philosophy department, to my enduring amazement he invited his neighbor Stanley Cavell for dinner, and we had a brief chat over salad and grilled fish. Stanley told me about his friend the poet Claude Esteban, whom I did not know before. (Now I see that he even wrote a book about Chillida, the Basque-Spanish sculptor whose museum I have so often visited in my hometown.)

On my last day he took me to Logan airport, and after my return we kept in touch by email, in which he often incrusted a NY Times piece or a family picture – there was hardly anything he was not interested in: food, travel, politics, the economy. But little by little our correspondence began to fade, as I was becoming increasingly busy with my tenure and the duties of a new position in the university. However, I felt and still feel incredibly lucky for having had the pleasure of sharing a month with Stephen R. Morse.

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