: the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
The Savage Faith of the Secret Heart and Other Essays is Gaviota resident Cynthia Carbone Ward’s newest collection of very personal, reflective writing.
The focus of these essays spans Ward’s entire lifetime, from her childhood activity of gathering pinecones on Long Island up to her current life as the mother of an adult daughter, living in the splendid solitude of a windswept canyon on the Hollister Ranch. Ward’s is a very American tale, complete with deep Old World roots and westward movement, coast to coast, pausing, like so many of our narratives, at the very edge of the Pacific.
These really are essays in the original sense of the word-essays in the anecdotal and reflective tradition of Montaigne. They are literally an attempt, taken from the French term essais, to explore a subject, not comprehensively or syllogistically, but privately, personally, intuitively.
Each of Ward’s essays offers readers a powerful and memorable experience, one which can compel readers into examining their own lives and cause them to start to explore their own experiences that are now over, but by no means over with. Ward bases most of her material on memories: everyday betrayals by childhood friends, misinterpreted generosities, small redemptive moments with her father, confusions of the heart with a deeply disappointed mother, misplaced loyalties, long pointless journeys on Greyhound buses, a flooded Gaviota Creek, the sale of her daughter’s horse, saying goodbye in so many unexpected ways to the people, places, and things she has loved. Through it all, her voice remains strong and clear, firmly rooted in the world by the careful language she weaves, leading us in each of her essays to tentative conclusions, sometimes deeply troubling, sometimes openly heartfelt, sometimes starkly ambivalent, sometimes qualified by all the complexities that will inevitably cloud our moments of clarity.
There is a keen mind at work in these essays. Ward often tackles, with much agility, precision, and even downright elegance, the sort of deep level life experiences we have all shared, the ones in which, as T.S. Eliot put it, “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” While these essays contain fragments of a life story, Ward offers her readers far more than mere autobiography: Her lucid prose offers us an insight into how a mind makes meaning by directly confronting those ghosts that we once knew all too well but now pretend no longer to see.
But those ghosts are still there, wandering our hallways, dragging their chains, making their clunking night noises, seeking resolution, consolation, peace. We all know that. We can only fool ourselves so long. The Savage Faith of the Secret Heart and Other Essays can offer the fully attentive reader numerous clues as to how to confront those ghosts and see them for what they are, and, by embracing them, find the words to set them free.
Ward will be reading from her book on Thursday, August 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Book Loft in Solvang. For more information, call 688-6010. The Savage Faith of the Secret Heart is available at The Book Loft and at Chaucer’s Books in Santa Barbara. Check out zacatecanyon.com to learn more.