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Wolf House In Ruins

Ruins of Wolf House

Ruins of Wolf House

[Update: 4/19/21 – Good biographical essay from Smithsonian. ~~~ end update]

We spent a glorious day in Jack London State Historic Park –

We visited Jack’s gravesite, his cabin, his ranch, tragic Wolf House ruins, and the monument museum erected to him by his wife, Charmian (note to the wise: don’t ever let your widowed wife define your legacy).

Just a few days prior, I picked up a copy of Naomi Klein’s latest book On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal  so couldn’t help but think of Wolf House – which burned to the ground – as a metaphor for our times.

London is one of my favorite authors, so visiting his ranch was a must see as we bounced down the California coast. (We’ll soon post photos of the pacific coast, from Puget sound – we’re trying to get to Berkeley for Monday’s Extinction Rebellion’s climate strike),

At the outset, let’s be clear: London was a socialist. Not a Bernie Sanders version, but the real deal (see London’s essay “How I Became a Socialist” (1905) for a discussion of democratic socialism).

We picked up copies of original covers of our favorite London books:

We also picked up a sticker that we immediately put on the bus and is now our favorite – it simply says:


The landscape of London’s ranch is exactly what we imagined in reading his work, especially the secret hiding place for the revolutionaries at the end of the novel “The Iron Heel”.


But with my focus on London’s political writings, I was unaware of London’s commitment to what we would now call “sustainable agriculture” and “animal rights”.


I was pleasantly surprised that London’s ideas about land management on his ranch anticipated the New Deal CCC forestry and agricultural programs and writers like Wendell Berry.

London's cabin - been there, for 17 years!

London’s cabin – been there, for 17 years!

That just builds on my London hero worship! I hope my kids spread my ashes in the Hudson River!

London' ashes were buried under this rock

London’ ashes were buried under this rock

Jack had a dream – one we shared and lived for 17 years in our cabin and farm in Ringoes, home of famous environment writer John McPhee.

But, I must note that the museum erected by London’s wife, Charmian, was a disappointment. Never let a high maintenance wife define your legacy!

Charmian's Museum

Charmian’s Museum

After a truly glorious day, we’re now in the Glen Ellen market parking lot (victim of 2017 wildfire), drinking beers and listening to Tom Waits’ greatest (there is no doubt in my mind that Jack London would have loved Tom Waits). Tom’s lyrics:

I like to sleep until the crack of noon
Midnight howlin’ at the moon
Goin’ out when I wanto, comin’ home when I please
I don’t have to ask permission
If I want to go out fishing
And I never have to ask for the keys

Maybe after Wolf House burned down, London felt these feelings Waits explores in his song “Hold On”

Well, God bless your crooked little heart
St. Louis got the best of me
I miss your broken China voice
How I wish you were still here with me
Oh, you build it up, you wreck it down
Then you burn your mansion to the ground
Oh, there’s nothing left to keep you here
But when you’re falling behind in this big blue world

Waits’ song “Old 55″ tells a story in my life and my “Colossal Illusion”: (but I drove an old ’89 Volvo):

Well, my time went so quickly
I went lickety-splickly
Out to my old ’55
As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy
God knows, I was feeling alive

(And if you can listen to Waits’ version of Waltzing Matilda” without crying, you have no heart).

We’ll keep you posted.


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