Of Carl Jung, Carl Sauer, and George R. Stewart

Carl Jung is supposed to have said that there are no accidents.  If an important encounter seems beyond coincidence, Jung is certain it is NOT a coincidence.  Jung even coined a term to describe such encounters:  “synchronicity.”

There have been many Jungian synchronicities in my George R. Stewart work.  Consider today’s extraordinary encounter.

There’s a small cafe here in the care center where I’m sequestered while antibiotics are poured through the system. Today was the day I was supposed to leave, but the antibiotic infusions have been extended.  Deciding to to celebrate anyway, with real coffee, I went to the cafe.

A couple came up to the counter, ordered some items to go, saying they’d been visiting a friend here but had to rush back to San Francisco.

Always neighborly, I asked where in San Francisco they might be going.

“Actually,” she said, “We’re going to Berkeley.”

“Where in Berkeley?”

“Solano Street.”

“Sure, I know Solano. Friends live there.”

On impulse I asked, “Have you read Earth Abides?” (The book is set in Berkeley up the hill from the Solano neighborhood.)

“Have I? I grew up in Berkeley, where it’s set.

“In fact, I’m Carl Sauer’s granddaughter. My mother was his daughter.  GRS and Granddad were great friends.

“I saw him almost every week hen I was a child”

“Your grandfather?”

“George Stewart – he often came to visit my grandfather when I was there.”


Carl_O._SauerCarl Sauer

 She was a member of a family of academic royals, and it was an honor to shake her hand (and her husband’s).

Sauer was considered the greatest geographer of his time.  He had a profound influence on Earth Abides, since GRS often discussed the effects of the removal of humans from the ecosystem with him — a major theme of the pioneering novel.  Stewart acknowledged his debt to Sauer by mentioning him in Earth Abides.

Stewart took also Sauer on research trips to the place that was the focus of his final ecological novel, a place he called Sheep Rock.

At the end of the novel, Stewart steps out of the text to explain how he did the research:

            I, George Stewart, did this work…

            I have looked into the blue and green depths of the spring, and have climbed  the rock, and gazed out across the desert. That first night, the grim fascination of  the place rose within me, and I thought of this book.

           That time I was with Charlie. I was there again— with Jack, with Selar, with Carl and Parker and Starker, with Brig and Roy. I said to myself, “I shall know more about this place than anyone knows of any place in the world.” So I took the others there, and one looked at the beaches and the hills, and another at the grass and the shrubs, and another at the stone-work among the hummocks, and so it went, until at last each had shared with me what he knew. Besides, I read the books.

            But if you ask me, “What is true, and what is not? Is there really such a place?” I can only say, “It is all mingled! What does it matter? In the end, is what-is-seen any truer than what-is-imagined?” Yet, if you should look hard enough, you might find a black rock and a spring—and of the other things too, more than you might suspect.

            So here, I write of myself, for I also was there, and I am of it….

“Carl,” of course, is Carl Sauer.

The couple had to leave. I gave them my card, silently wishing we’d met when the biography was being written – her story would have been as valuable as Baiba Strad’s or those of the Stewarts.

This is the type of encounter that makes one believe the gods – or at least Carl Jung – are at work in our lives.

3 thoughts on “Of Carl Jung, Carl Sauer, and George R. Stewart

  1. Well, there’s rarely a day, certainly not a week which passes that I don’t think of “Earth Abides” and what it portends. The richness of the characters and the story. I think anyone who believes that human-kind will simply continue our current course blithely into an endless future is engaging in a deep self deception. One way or another, we will come a cropper – the odds are stacked against us. Indeed, we ourselves are the stackers but we plod on, oblivious. Will it be something as sudden and sweeping as GRS set forth in the book or something more gradual and slow growing? We’ve no real way of knowing but either way, we have overgrown our environment, our place in the ecosystem and just as happened with the rats, the ants, and all the other creatures in the story, we will reach our zenith (we may already have) and then be reduced to something else.
    Anyway, It’s still unfathomable to me that a major motion picture of GRS vision on this has not yet been made. It’s so needed right now!

  2. Thanks, Brian. News about measles epidemics certainly seems to point to the truth of EA. As to filming it, there’s been a project under development for years by two academy award winners. But the book may be too thought-provoking for most suits – and certainly lacks the sex and violence that seem to be the stuff of most movies today. But we shall hope that someday it will get a fine film treatment. After all, it took The Lord of the Rings Decades to be properly filmed.

  3. So glad you met those folks. Sort of completes a circle doesn’t it. But, the greatest coincidence is when there are no coincidences. Jung didn’t believe in probability. I have the book Sheep Rock and have been there. Also, I regularly hike with groups in Donner Summit area and tell my fellow hikers about J R Stewart Peak and about who he was. I often find people who have read Earth Abides. I also have Storm. I hope you are all better now.

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