Edward F. Ricketts

When I remember a church cantata once I sung, as a child, I get a sense of haunting lovliness which it would be easy to tie up with the music. It was a good time in my life; I was very much ten-year-old in love with that good Ethel. The new snow was on the ground when I walked home with her; we dragged behind the others; doesn't matter what we said, perhaps nothing, maybe we just walked along silently in brilliance. But there aren't any words for what that was. It was a very real thing too. Now I tend to invest that thing in her, and more in the music. It was real enough, but it was not she, nor I. We only were cloaked with it (altho I know of course it came from us) but it was greater than we were, than we are even now. And particularly it wasn't the music. We merely invested the music with it. And I can bring that thing back faintly anytime, merely by remembering the tune. Actually the music was very second rate. In spite of the nostalgia I'm certain of that. And now I'm clear enough so that an outsider could belittle or even ridicule the music without bothering me. I know it's fit only for ridicule. But what we put in it was the real thing.

It's particularly fortunate for me that my wonderful glow got tied up with music so inconsequential. Think if that had been a Bach Cantata! I mightn't even get clear. Now I have to face the fact that the important thing isn't the inconsequential music. What's important is what I projected into it.

Of course there's nothing wrong with the nostalgias themselves. They contribute richness and enjoyment. You can object only to the limitations related to them.

In the face of all this, you wonder how any new thing can arise at all. Some people have such a drive for truth, or such perfestionism, that they investigate new things in the face of nostalgia. These then, discovering a true thing in all their searchings, use that same drive to make it known. Then they shine so they attract disciples. Their sons anyway. And these are conditioned then so that their security and joy gets associated to the other thing, the new thing, and a cell is formed that spreads wherever they go, in turn associating other youngsters with the new thing.

To John Steinbeck
August 12, 1946

Dear Jn, I guess you'll have to bear with my tirade on use and nostalgia. A common word with you, one of the few who know its power.

but the turn of events of another sort got me to considering the relation of use and tradition. Only result being a sense of frustation. Allegedly, man is the only logical animal. His illogicality amazes me.

To Toni Jackson
Feb. 4 1948

Maybe a chance for that long letter I've been promising myself. And to answer in detail your several letters which I've replied to shortly.

Reflections & Observations
Robert 'Roy' J van de Hoek
Field Biologist & Geographer
Wetlands Action Network, Director of Research and Restoration
July 2002

These notes by Ed Ricketts were written not long before he died, so they are in very rough form, but they give an indication of where he was going as both a humanist and scientist.

In conclusion, there are the thoughts of Ed Ricketts' friend and marine biologist colleague to consider, from "The Outer Shores (Part 2, page 62). Joel Hedgpeth mentions nostalgia, John Steinbeck, and the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia (i.e. Masset Inlet) but I am confused by the true meaning of this passage by Hedgpeth. I quote it however because there is a magical quality and mystical statement in it somewhere:

"However earnestly he strainged to be a profound philosopher, Ed's best talents were his wit, his capacity to see the humor of situations and his ability to converse and participate with people. Often such participation meant putting himself in the other fellow's place. these are ephemeral graces that leave little record but show themselves best in the journal accoutns of his expedition with Steinbec to the Gulf of California and in the account of his travels to British Columbia. Both of these journal transcripts were prepared from his notebooks for John Steinbeck's use. The first, of course, became the backbone of Sea of Cortez. The essay on non-teleological thinking was a dimension beyond the travel notes that Steinbeck subjected to a sea change. Ed anticipated a similar enhancement of his old notes from the earlier trip to Alaska. The Alaskan material was scientific rather than philosophical and evidently Ed hoped for more of the science to be retained in the new joint effort. This is suggested in Steinbeck's remarks about Masset Inlet on p. lxiv of "About Ed Ricketts' but when he said "the light has gone out of it for me" he was too close to his loss to appreciate the value of what Ed had written for him. Ed's perceptions were decades ahead of his time. Now there is the added evocation of nostalgia in the best Rickettsian sense, not merely that these writings have remained so long unavailable but that now is added the seasoning of timelessness to Ed's concern for people, ideas and the life of the seashore." There it is, summed up nicely by Joel Hedgpeth, with additional 2002 nostalgia. Hedgpeth is now 90 years old