Excerpt from a letter to a friend ~
Our last neighbours in America were, I suppose, legendary. Those on our street were Linda Hamilton (and for about a year and a half, her husband, James Cameron), Cher, David Letterman (before he sold his house, one of several) and Bob Dylan, before he moved around the corner. Down the street and around another corner was Marty Sheen. Not far away were Barbra Streisand, Steven Speilberg, Genevieve Bujold, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Bronson, Nick Nolte, Rod Steiger, James Whitmore and many other actors - as well as writers, directors, producers and studio execs whose names probably would not mean much to most people. Robert Downey Jr. lived nearby. Not sure where. But the Malibu Public Library is right next to the County Courthouse, so I saw him often enough.
We all pretty much kept to ourselves - had our own circle of friends, but we were all cordial enough when we met walking along the street or at Coogies or taking kids to school or in the local shops, or at certain events. It was interesting living there in our house behind the tall, tall and very locked gates overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I had no emotion about it. Not really.
But within a few months of coming to Wales, my neighbours became intricate part of my life , and their joys, sorrows, events and news began to mean almost as much to me as my own. I tried to explain it in a letter to a friend back home:
"There is a collective heartbeat in this village that I share. I do not feel entirely individual here and it is surprisingly not a lot to do with values - although that is part of it. I think it is the will to love - to be part of another person's experience - to be slightly less individual and slightly more tribal - a very Welsh version of tribalness. When one hurts, all suffer, though these are pretty resiliant and cheerful people. There is a feeling of buoyancy here - it may be linked to a very old gene inside me. We went to a lecture last night on The Celts - and it turns out that they originated in central Europe and migrated first to the Iberian peninsula and later into Britain. The lecturer, Sir Barry Cunliffe, pointed out on the map where the Celts settled for centuries and from where they left the mainland for Albion's fair shore - and it was what is now Iberian Peninsula from which my ancestors hailed.
This is a very tiny enclosed village, the resources of which, if you are not part of the university or the town (or both like I am) are exhausted in 20 minutes. It literally takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end of the village to the other. It is monumentally difficult to get to from most other places, involving a series of planes, trains and automobiles (none of which connect to the other) that caused my son, an extremely fit male in his twenties to say, "This is insane - it takes longer to get from London to your village than it took to get from New York to London - and it is completely exhausting."
This isolation is what preserves us as a unit - as a culture. This is what connects me to my friends and neighbours, and even to the people I don't particularly like. My heart has grown some very delicate tendrils attached to the mysterious heart of this village, and I prefer that no one from the other world (except my children of course) visit me here. Something happens when I bring my former life and present one together and it alters everything - the perception of what I am writing - my relationship to the material and the source of it -and my ability to write it - a balance is disrupted.
That recursive occlusion in which I live recedes from itself and I find it very distressing and very difficult to get back into the book I live in and the book I am writing. It all disappears and so much richness that has built up is lost. I am not sure why that happens but most writers I know feel that way, which is why they tend to be reclusive while working on their material.
Isaac Asimov wrote in a closet in the middle of New York. I've been in it. Harlan Ellison writes in an invisible room, encastled in Sherman Oaks. I've spent magical hours there, too. But I live in a land that that few other than my friends and neighbours can "be" in - a land that does not exist unless I remain attached to something I cannot fathom. So I am, to put it bluntly, hiding out.
I have never had neighbours before - not in this way - not neighbours who are also friends, fellow inhabitants of this barely believable planet - not neighbours who are sustenance. Someday, I will return to the life that you say you envy. Envy is a wasteful emotion. But if you envy any life, you should envy this one. "
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance