I’m sitting in a Madison hotel room that looks out on Lake Mendota, so tired from Wednesday’s wanderings that I can barely see straight. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a fuller account of my adventures, but I do want to say something now about my visit to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and headquarters. I spent most of the morning and afternoon walking the grounds, escorted by Keiran Murphy, one of Taleisin’s resident archivists and historians. Keiran was kind enough to serve as my tour guide for the day, though calling her that would be like calling Hilary Hahn a fiddler. Never in my life have I been given a more sensitive and comprehending tour of anything, anywhere. Listening to her talk about Wright and looking at everything she pointed out, I felt as if my eyes had opened to twice their normal size.
At the end of the day, Keiran and I stood together on a hill overlooking Taliesin, gazing at the house and the vast, all-encompassing view beyond it. (You can see the foot of the hill at the right-hand edge of this photo.) For a moment I didn’t trust myself to speak.
“I guess you get used to everything,” I finally said, “but I don’t see how anyone could get used to seeing this every day.”
“Oh, you do,” Keiran replied. “Most of the time, anyway. Except when the wind and sun and humidity are just right. When everything is right.” She paused. “Then it’s so beautiful, it hurts.”
“Such beauty as hurts to behold,” I said, thinking of the first line of a poem by Paul Goodman that I love:
Such beauty as hurts to behold
and so gentle as salves the wound:
I am shivering though it is not cold
and dark as in a swoon.
She nodded. We stood in silence for a little while longer, clinging vainly to the passing moment.
“I guess we’d better go back to the world,” I said at last.
“I guess we’d better,” she said, and we walked down the hill to the house.