On the way to Easter Island I stopped off in Santiago, Chile, and happily found my way to the eccentric house of artful poet great, Pablo Neruda.
He has three homes in and near the Chilean capital. I got lost inside his home, now a museum, in Santiago. It is a series of houses actually–each dedicated to a different part of life.
The study was where I tried to decipher with my harrowed Spanglish, historic works of poetry scribbled on tattered paper encased in plexiglass atop a fine wooden desk.
The bar, surrounded by early twentieth century art in the form of furniture, paintings, and memorabilia, was reportedly where he greeted friends with Pisco or wine or absinthe (Pablo was known to be a great host and showman.) On the walls were pictures of artists whom inspired his work: Hemingway, Shakespeare, Garcia Lorca, Picasso; and Walt Whitman, whom he was deeply fascinated by.
In the living room, an eclectic mix of belongings including his Nobel Prize for Literature, a patchwork reindeer statuette, and playing cards from other eras. Most highlighted in the room is a portrait of his beloved second wife, Matilde Urrutia, (a Chilean singer and Neruda’s muse) painted by the Mexican great Diego Rivera (who was reportedly also to be in love by Mathilde.) He painted her with two heads–one for Pablo, and one for himself.
In the study sat a lone leather reading chair bathed in natural light surrounded by books, drawings of other worlds, and nautical maps (including one from one of my favorite places, Antarctica, the great white continent.) Pablo had a bleeding heart for sailing.
There were a few other rooms, notable, but left behind in this post for the sake of succinctness, save one last room–the hero of this post–the dining room. The room is outfitted as a ship room would be–long with low ceilings and circular windows peering out on the bodega (and in his imagination, I assume, out to sea.) This room struck me as I know he is my dining soul mate! The table was the centerpiece of the room and its narrow frame put guests in the closest possible proximity to one another (it is no secret in my circles that I actively seek restaurants with round tables so that everyone can participate in equal part in the conversation.) At the foot of Neruda’s dining table is a passage way to a bedroom where he would rest after indulgent meals, and a china cabinet. And in the china cabinet, a salt and pepper set labeled ‘Marijuana’ and ‘Morphine’. Story goes, he liked to host intimate eat-fests while placing odd items around the room to inspire creative conversation laced with a bit of absurdity. I picked up a replica set as a reminder: remain artful, quirky, and always display a sense of humor.
“The books that help you most are those which make you think that most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.” — Pablo Neruda