By the time we arrived at what Chinese Rita
had called the most wonderful house on Ibiza my
head had cleared entirely and I put myself into what I had
come to call my analytic mode. This was supposed
to ensure that I would take a sceptical attitude toward anything
or anyone I was supposed to evaluate. Objectivity was to underpin
validity and I called on my professional photographic sensibility
to help me evaluate the architecture of the place, the quality
of its location and the nature of its furnishings. I did all
sorts of little exercises like that which fit into my image
of myself while in my analytic mode. But there
was nothing for it. I just plain loved the place.
The main house, which was a signal example
of classical, traditional Ibicenco construction and design,
had been restored in a manner most marvellous. The proportions
were happily married and were celebrating at least their 200th
anniversary. During that time they had become so integrated
with the enveloping terrain that the two had blended one into
the other. It was almost impossible to determine where the
house began and where the natural flora surround ended. There
were oceans of flowers and gardens galore, but the greatest
flower of them all was the house itself.
The main living area was a large and comfortable
rectangular room with a high ceiling. It was held aloft by
very hard wood Sabina pine beams of imposing bulk, which had
been hand hewn from the raw trunk. When those beams had been
made, only the axe and adze could have hewn them. No saw could
cut the stone like wood. One could imagine the scene: two
strong men, geared together in a rhythm set by their muscle-needs
for oxygen, stood on opposite sides of a huge, trimmed, tree
bole. It lay flush on the ground, as if exhausted and defeated,
on a thick, sorrowful carpet woven of its own shorn branches.
In their hands the men wielded heavy headed axes to do the
rough sizing. Then they used adzes to skilfully cut and shape
the gross, squared beam to exactly the wanted dimensions.
There was not enough energy for talking, so the work was done
only to the sound of heavy breathing. When it was finished,
a very hard wooden beam lay before them. It was perfectly
suited to its intended function. Though it would live for
centuries, it had taken perhaps only half a day to create.
There is almost no Sabina left on the island today.
Inside, Juttas house was so beautifully
furnished that one felt one was entering a charmed and secret
place. On the floors there was a generous use of sparkling
scatter rugs strewn over exquisite old tiles. And in appropriate
places, there were full size carpets from all parts of the
world. There were Keshan, Hamadam and Tariz Orientals, a French
Aubusson and Mughal dynasty rugs from Pakistan. Louis XIV
side pieces mingled with Chinese dragons leaping at you from
bulging storage chests standing alongside medieval suits of
armour. It was a museum; no less. And the paintings on the
spotlessly white walls had not only been hung to form engaging
patterns of verticals and horizontals, but had been chosen
with a sense of universal appeal. Ernestos touch was
immediately evident to me. Each one was a unique object, but
it also blended effortlessly with the others of its group.
And there were more than a dozen groups.
I held my breath and said to Jutta, Only
beautiful people could live in such a beautiful place!
It was the end of my reserve. Like the conclusion I had come
to about her husband Emilio, that he had no evil in
him, I also came to the same about her. Jutta recognized
the change in me instantly, for it must have been clearly
evident in my bearing, so radical was it in my feelings. And
it brought with it a so welcome relief to both of us that
involuntarily, we held both the hands of the other, and then
we embraced warmly.
The next order of business was an inspection
of Juttas guest house, Casa Paput, which stood only
about thirty meters away from the main house. I had become
very anxious to find a place in which to settle so that I
could get started working on my planned project for Ibiza.
It was a job for which I had a fine contract from a major
publisher in New York, McGraw Hill. Most of all, it was a
very challenging assignment, requiring the full use of my
abilities and resources. My contract with McGraw had grown
out, of all things, the launching of the Russian spacecraft,
Sputnik, a few years earlier. The American reaction to that
had been, to say the least, agitated. In those cold war years
the international competition between the two great rivals
on all levels was ferocious. But it was particularly hard
fought on the scientific front in general, and especially
on the only then emergent, space exploration front, in particular.
So when the Russians were the first to successfully launch
a satellite - called Sputnik - the Americans had fits. They
accelerated their research and investment in Space projects,
rallied their entire scientific establishment to the cause,
and called in the assistance of their national University
system as well. Interest and investment in the Humanities,
the study of the Arts and of Human Culture in general, fell
by the wayside for several years. All energies and focus were
glued to Space. When, finally, the Americans caught up with
the Russians, and they did, a guilty awareness that the Humanities
had been seriously, even dangerously, neglected for decades,
began to sink in. While Science had expanded geometrically,
the Humanities had shrunk arithmetically. If things continued
in such gross imbalance for much longer, America would become
The reaction to this awareness was to frantically
reinvest in the Humanities. Universities were prodded and
financially helped to update and modernize their Humanities
departments. Humanities budgets were enlarged all over the
country to realize the new objective. Then American publishers,
especially book publishers, were strongly urged to follow
suit. To help them do so, the Government began to subsidize
them, so that they could afford to publish material which
was less commercial and more culturally oriented than they
could otherwise have afforded to produce. The trickle down
effect made me, among perhaps thousands of others, an immediate
beneficiary of this national educational convulsion.
McGraw Hill hired me to do a series of childrens
books in Europe. These books were to be strongly photographic
in character but also strongly narrative at the same time:
they were to be designed to show children in America, from
the ages of eight to twelve, how their counterparts lived
in Europe. The contract was for six books, each one to be
done in a different European country, and each book to be
a study of the ordinary life of a boy or girl born into a
different socio-economic class from the others. It was a fine
contract, indeed, and it was high time I got down to working
on the book which was the second on my list. The first had
been the French/Paris story which I had completed about six
months before I arrived in Ibiza. It was already in use in
hundreds of schools in the United States. The next book was
intended to tell the story of a boy or girl living and growing
up in Spain under a dictatorial regime. By default, I had
chosen to write and photograph it in Ibiza
that monumental decision to make Ibiza my permanent home.
It was now time I found a place in which to live because it
was now time to go to work. Hence my intense interest in Casa
Paput. Would it do?
Jutta opened the front door. I stepped inside.
It was delightful! It would indeed do. There was a small American
style kitchen to the rear, left, which opened directly onto
the main living space accessed directly by the antique front
door. A living space capacious enough for a family of four.
It was about eight or nine meters wide, four meters deep,
and it had built in bed and bench accommodation in the right
places. To the right, rear, behind the main room, was a small
but complete bathroom. Best of all, and quite unexpected,
was the presence of electricity. There was an up-pump system
run by it, which made getting cistern water to the roof an
easy matter. From the roof, where the water was stored in
large tanks, gravity down-pressured it to the bath and the
kitchen. And there was even hot water, provided by a pressure
driven gas-burning water heater, right above the kitchen sink.
The house itself was tucked away in a natural
fold of the land and was thus protected against north winds
and storms. The view from its south facing terrace was magnificent.
There, before you, was spread out the whole southern section
of the island. Centred within that view was the Old Town,
boldly thrusting skyward toward the Cathedral, which, like
a medieval castle, overlooked the peaceful village below.
The little house itself was surrounded, almost drowned, by
a wilderness of brilliant red and purple flower bracts of
bougainvillea. It was the cottage dream-house kind of thing,
and it was perfect for single occupancy
but even better
for double. As for its style, well it quietly harmonized with
Juttas seigniorial villa only a few meters away. What
more could an American with a taste for European living ask
for? In no time at all we had agreed the details and everybody
lent a hand unloading the Renault. Two things now became urgent.
The first was to immediately check up on Flipper and to bring
him home to Casa Paput, if he was up to being moved. And the
second was to get in touch with the educational people on
the island and ask for their advice and help in choosing the
young boy who would become the protagonist of the childrens
book I would begin to work on in the next day or two.