February 4, 2015

At Lindbergh's Grave

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was born on February 4, 1902 in Detroit, Michigan. On May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field, near New York City, at 7:52 A.M. He landed at Le Bourget Field, near Paris, on May 21 at 10:21 P.M. Paris time (5:21 P.M. New York time).

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."

-- Psalm 139

That long green swell that sears my eyes
As I drowse on this bed of black stones,
Is it the Irish coast rising in the dawn
Beyond the brushed silver of my cowling
Where, throughout the night, I trusted
Not in some desert God's directions,
But like all fools who dreamed my flight
In the calibrated compasses of man?

That rushing sound, is it the crowd at Le Bourget,
Swarming past the barriers and lights
To scavenge my Spirit; to lift me up
Into the air that only heroes breathe?
Or is it the age-old sigh of sea on stones,
Known to those who pace the shingle
And the swirled black sands that wrap
These impossible islands in a shawl of waves?

That painting daubed on the chapel's window --
Not the roselined mandala at Chartres
Where flame in glass misprisoned sings --
But a cruder Savior, bearded, browned, and popular;
An icon obtainable to plain sight, a trim God
Limned flat upon the glass in dull gesso,
And, when light moves behind it, looking down....
Is this the sign in which, at last, we conquer?


Conquer? I'd laugh the laugh of stones
Had I but eyes to see and lips to breathe.
No, I am content with my reduced cathedral
Here above the ocean where man and apes
Together waltzing lie, having done at last
With all horizons, having done at last with sky.

If you would see me now pass by
The small green church where ancient banyans
Bloom with shade and guard
The tower and the bell which you
May toll for you or me, or other souls
Not yet delivered to the stars and sea.

And then, retreating, mark the tree
Whose tendriled branches hold but air,
And shadow both the church and stones
Beneath which wait both apes and men
Who, foolish with their hunger for the air,
Swung branch to branch up all the eons
And, letting go at last, they learned --
Through my night's leap -- to rise.

Sea, stone, tree, ape and Savior:
These now my long companions are.
Better here, I think, in this dank green
Cartoon of Paradise, this slight-of-hand Eden;
Better here beneath the pumice stones
Where strangers drop a wreath a year.

Better in here deep than out there wide --
Hovering over the pillaring waves alone,
Suspended between the old world and the new,
Trusting in man's compass to guide me home;
Descending down the sharp cold blade of dawn.
Better, much better, in here at last to wait
In here where the shawl of the waves below
Enfolds that fire they could never snare.

         -- At the Palapala Ho'omau Church, Hana, Maui


Composed and photographs taken on site. Hana, 2003

Posted by Vanderleun at February 4, 2015 10:54 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


Heart rate is up.

Sure sign that I've encountered A Poem.


Posted by: Cathy at May 21, 2009 8:21 AM

As a child Lindbergh was a hero of mine. I found myself at the gravesite, never even having known it was there 'till I stumbled upon it during my honeymoon in '06. I was unable to think. Apparently you were not. Nicely written.

Posted by: David at June 9, 2009 5:35 PM

Charles Lindbergh?
The Nazi Charles Lindbergh?

[Oh, Jake, you are sooo smart. So well educated. So full of yourself. I envision you sitting there with your nostrils full of your rich, rich aroma! You come back real soon and impress us all again. Okay?]

Posted by: Jake at June 10, 2009 3:24 PM

Actually the church is in Kipahulu, Maui not far from Hana.

Posted by: Helene Bidwell at May 23, 2010 1:04 AM


Posted by: Capt. Dave at May 23, 2010 5:54 PM

There is a nice description of Lindbergh's contributions to the air war in New Guinea and the Solomons in, "ACES HIGH" by Bill Yenne. He taught our pilots how to extend the range of their P-38s by reducing RPMs and leaning out the fuel mixture, techniques which he had mastered to complete his crossing of the Atlantic. The Lone Eagle surreptiously flew a few combat missions in the company of Capt. Tommy McGuire, one of our leading aces, much to the concern of the Air Force brass.

A great pilot and deep thinker, he was a loner who was never comfortable in the public eye. His last years of life and final resting place near Hana are a testament to his desire to escape the public view.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at May 23, 2010 6:39 PM

Dear Jimmy J: Piffle. The great pilot bit I accept. But Lindbergh the "deep thinker?" Hahahahahahahaha. Try reading this masterpiece of deep thinking from READER'S DIGEST of November 1939. This thinking has all the depth of Saran wrap. Want more? Read Lindbergh's somewhat misleadingly titled WARTIME JOURNALS. At the end of the war, Lindbergh visited the German extermination camps and wrote about them. His viewpoint? he compared them to atrocities American soldiers had committed on Japanese soldiers, a mighty blinkered comparison, that does better as Lindbergh deluding himself rather than facing what sort of people he admired before the war.

His 1927 flight was a great feat of daring, skill, and enterprise. He deserved well for this achivement. But it was downhill all the way after that. The man had a wide streak of self-righteousness that led him astray every time he veered away from discussing aviation, and sometimes even when he discussed aviation (his notorious overestimate of the prewar Luftwaffe exceeded even Churchill's, but unlike Churchill, all Lindbergh could think of in response was to turn away from the problem.) The beauty of his grave should not hide the equally wide streak of son-of-a-bitchery in Lindbergh. Anyone who can cheat on his wife with a mistress in Europe, start a family with said mistress AND THEN cheat on his mistress and start a third family with another mistress has the ruthlessness and self-centeredness to rise high in the Swine order.

Lindbergh wrote a great book, THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, and two interesting ones: his WARTIME JOURNALS and his AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF VALUES. Read them and then decide if he was a great thinker, let alone man.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Posted by: Gregory Koster at May 24, 2010 4:50 PM

Mr. Koster,
Yes, Lindbergh was wrong about Germany and did not want to see the U.S. involved in the war. That he overestimated the Luftwaffe as did Churchill is a reason to hate the man? He was certainly not alone in his desire to stay out of the war. A small majority of Americans held those views prior to Pearl harbor.

My view of his being a deep thinker was based on his aviation expertise. He was ahead of most people of his time.

Many talented men (and women for that matter) have had less than exemplary personal lives. Having lost a son to premature death myself, I have a fair idea of what he went through after his son died. The notoriety of that tragic event would have been hard for any family to endure. I'm sure it changed the Lindbergh family in strange and sad ways that most of us would not like to endure. Had I lived an entirely exemplary life and never made a mistake of judgment, I suppose I would be qualified to criticise him as vehemently as you. Sadly, I can make no such claim.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at May 24, 2010 9:31 PM

Dear Jimmy J: The notion that the death of Lindbergh's first son was what changed "the family" and drove Lindbergh to take his mistresses would be more convincing if a) the son died in 1932 and b) the mistresses didn't come along until the mid 1950s, the first child being born in 1957. Nor did Lindbergh's first family, at least the children, learn of these other two families until 2003. That Lindbergh would allow the mistresses to raise the children by themselves, presumably helping out with dough, but being careful to keep it a secret even on his deathbed, seems grossly disloyal to all his children, his wife, and his mistresses. To be sure, the wife and mistresses were adults, but the children weren't. To do this for years and years, not once but twice is less a mistake of judgment than proof of ruthlessness and son-of-a-bitchery.

The same arrogance that let him accept a decoration from Goering, against his wife's better judgment, that forecast Britain was doomed because the Luftwaffe would bomb hell out of it (it's interesting to read the WARTIME JOURNALS in the summer and fall of 1940. Lindbergh's professional judgment is stirred to admiration at the fight the British were making, with the uneasy realization that his prewar judgment was wrong. He never admits the conflict, but sweeps it under the rug), the constant reiteration that it was the Joos, the Joos, who were manipulating the US into war, the insistence that American atrocities committed against Japanese soldiers in combat were in the same class as the Holocaust, and finally the self-confidence that he could publish his journals and his puritanical AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF VALUES while keeping his mistresses and bastard children a secret, with no damage to his reputation does not strike me as what a "deep thinker" would do.

Did you read the five page article I linked to? This article draws on his supposed expertise in aviation, mixes with speculations in grand stratgey and history in the manner of Toynbee, and results in a farrago of bunk and nonsense. His books are worth reading, and his work with Alexis Carrel deserves mention, though not as much as his championing of Robert Goddard's work. He went through a great personal tragedy in 1932 (but not if you believe (I don't)Noel Behn, who wrote a book that Lindbergh staged the kidnapping to cover up a monstrous crime committed within the family.) The rest is distasteful and best, rapidly verging on contemptible. Pat Buchanan champions Lindbergh these days, which I think damns him more thoroughly than I could. His aviation expertise was wrong on the Luftwaffe, giving the British appeasers help. He couldn't admit he had erred even after the Battle of Britain. And his anti-semitic tendencies are too much for me. Let him take a chair at an Ivy League.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Posted by: Gregory Koster at May 25, 2010 1:14 AM

Mr. Koster,
Thank you for the further detailed information concerning your reasons for disliking Lindbergh. My knowledge of him is certainly not as extensive as yours. Particularly not concerning the mistresses and their chilldren. I agree that a man who does not acknowledge his children, even if born out of wedlock, is certainly a loser of the first order. I prefer to give people, particularly those who have departed, the benefit of the doubt and not try to judge them too harshly. In Lindbergh's case you have convinced me, that he deserves to be criticised roundly for his unforgivable failures to acknowledge his children.

I tried to link to the article, but was unable to for some technical reason I don't understand. If you could give me the URL I could cut and paste it into the browser, I would like to give it read.

Though you disagreed with my praise for Lindbergh, I thank you for providing me with new information about the man. You never know when a simple comment can lead to new insight.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at May 25, 2010 4:43 PM

[Copied from a comment in Thinking Right by Gregory Koster]

Dear Jimmy J: Sorry about a) my deficient linking skills and b) missing your request in the Lindbergh thread. Here is a website with the 1939 READER'S DIGEST article Lindbergh wrote, "Aviation, Geography, and Race""


Everyone else: please excuse this irrelevancy.

many thanks.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Posted by: vanderleun at May 27, 2010 1:05 PM

Dear Mr. Koster,
I've been traveling for a week and just got around to reading the link. It was interesting and something I had not seen, although I could read in 1939, although not at that level.

Don't know how old you are. I was six in 1939 and quite aware that there was racism in our society. Much more racism than today. Lindbergh's views were fairly common for the days. The idea that the industrial revolution in northern Europe and the U.S. was the result of racial differences (superiority/inferiority) was accepted by many. Hey, the article was published by Reader's Digest - not exactly a race baiting publication of the day. Yes, Lindbergh's assertions would be roundly criticised today. We have, fortunately, come some distance in our views of race and ethnicity from those pre-war days.

I did recognize in the article his belief that industrialization was possibly weakening the moral fiber of our society. His entry into environmental causes and retreat to Maui were much a part of that.

I like this sentence from Wikipedia as a summary of my view on him. "The controversy surrounding his involvement in politics (and to a lesser extent, his personal life) sometimes overshadows the fact that he was an important pioneer in aviation from the 1920s to the 1950s."

I have enjoyed this exchange. Thanks for your comments.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at June 6, 2010 7:54 PM

Great poem, Gerard. That's one of my favorites of yours.

Charles Lindbergh was a genuine American hero, and one of the most important pioneers in aviation history. His 1927 flight across the Atlantic was an almost unimaginable act of bravery. Several people had already been killed trying it, and he was well aware of that fact. No one would have ever thought less of him if he had said, "The hell with that; I'm staying home."

His subsequent foray into politics reminds me of the modern tendency to give credence to the political pronouncements of celebrities such as musicians and movie stars. In fact, it may have been the first instance of that. I mean, nobody cares about Joe Blow at the local gas station's opinions about race theory, do they?

Interestingly, his father, Charles Lindbergh Sr., was a politician and a member of Congress. He was a vehement opponent of the creation of the Federal Reserve system in 1913. The Wikipedia article doesn't say whether or not he opposed the 16th and 17th Amendments which were also ratified that year, but if I was a betting man, I'd bet that he was agin' 'em. Which makes him a genuine American hero as well.

1913 was a dark, dark year in American history. We're still suffering the consequences.

Posted by: rickl at March 18, 2012 6:59 AM

This is, perhaps, one of the greatest uses of language and words I have ever seen from the mind of a man. Everytime I read it, I am stunned. What Linbergh did was monumental, impossible, and quite amazing.

Posted by: Captain Dave at March 18, 2012 1:52 PM

Jimmy J. "... he was a loner who was never comfortable in the public eye."

True statement indeed. I have cousins who lived directly next door to Lindbergh in Menlo Park, California in the late sixties early seventies. They told me they only saw Mr. Lindbergh outside of his home a couple of times in all the years they were neighbors.

These cousins were direct descendents of Robert Fulton of steam boat fame, incidentally.

Posted by: Terry at March 18, 2012 3:32 PM

Beautiful! Thanks so much for this wonderful website - I enter when the world is too much with us! As for Mr. Lindbergh, what a pity that his personal life didn't match his public persona. A man who abandons mistresses and offspring is lacking in more than a few character traits. His views on Hitler and Germany were quite disturbing, too.

God bless you mightily, Gerard!

Posted by: Patricia at March 23, 2012 6:05 AM

Beautiful words put in a beautiful order.

Posted by: Gary Imperial at May 22, 2013 7:53 PM

A very fine poem. Blank verse that actually scans, every line.

If the worms want to chew on Lindberghs' corpse, they should consider that virtually every criticism of him applies to virtually every other public figure, even Eisenhower and Roosevelt, certainly Clinton and now the monster and monstress befouling the White House. Even totalitarian socialism of one short or another was popular, especially among the intelligentsia. Go find G. B. Shaw's screed for fascism on YouTube.

Posted by: bob sykes at May 21, 2014 3:34 AM

On a visit to Maui twenty years ago, Donie and I borrowed her uncles car and headed off for Hana.

The attraction was the drive and the destination was the 7 sacred pools. When I think now of the idiocy of driving on that winding and narrow road with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand holding a camera. Not one of the tiny digital thingies but a full size 35mm SLR. Those times I had to drop the thing to grab the steering wheel with two hands, I either punched myself in the gut or pounded my...err, lets just say it hurt. Justice or karma that all those photos were lost in the fire.

After frolicking in the pools (without cracking my head open) we continued on to the end and Hana Village. Stopped at the church and ventured to the grave. Dangers of traveling with a camera, I thought more about the pictures I took than the meaning of what I saw until much later. I read a book (title escapes me) that had a section on Charles Lindbergh and his work during WWII. As mentioned above, he did a lot of work improving long-distance flight endurance of American military pilots, all his work was unpaid and unsung. Mr. Lindbergh was barely tolerated by the brass and Washington.

Then I thought about the place that he had gone to and where he lived out the reminder of his life. Hana really was the end of the world, as I remember (at that time) the roads went no further. The end of road. There were no amenities, no movies, no golf courses. Cliffs went down to shark infested waters. I wondered why such a world famous man, a man who would be welcome anywhere in the world would go to this place to live out the end of his life. I looked (at the time) for a book, a autobiography preferably, that touched on the mystery. I never found one. This was before the stories came out about the other families. Was he in self exile? Was he punishing himself? I don't know and I'm not qualified or fit to judge.

But one thing I do know. I enjoy reading biographies and I have always been interested in the early days of aviation. (I can highly recommend the Jimmy Doolittle autobiography "I could never be THAT lucky again!) Offhand I don't know of any early aviation pioneer, who lived to old age that is, who retired to a place without an airport, strip or any other connection to air flight.

Posted by: John at May 21, 2014 6:36 PM

...slight of hand Eden...

Very good...


Posted by: De Quire at February 7, 2015 4:50 PM