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Life Imitates Art Imitates Life Etc.

My father’s father, my Papa Bill, was a gentle, handsome man, an artist with the soul of a poet. He loved the Rubayatt of Omar Khayyam, and when he built a cabin at Arch Cape on the Oregon Coast, he inscribed the beam above the fireplace with this line: AND PITY SULTAN MAHMUD ON HIS THRONE.

As a little girl, this fascinated me. In my book SOMEDAY I’LL LAUGH ABOUT THIS, I fictionalized the cabin in Yachats owned by my mother’s very practical and non-poetic side of the family by transporting that line to the beam over the rock fireplace there. As my character twelve-year-old Shelby explains it, it means you feel even luckier than a king, because a palace can’t top a good cabin.

Now my husband and I are building a little cabin on one of our forest properties, and I am copying my grandfather in real life by putting the line over the doors framing the view to the west. I think he would have approved.

The next lines of the poem are perhaps the more famous:

A book of verses underneath the bough
A flask of wine, a loaf of bread and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise ‘enow!

Well, we’re usually too busy planting or limbing trees to sit around reading poetry to each other, and drinking and chainsaws are not a good mix. But the part about being out there together? Pretty much says it all.

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