Pacing through the Pines

'I pledge allegiance to the earth, the sun, the sky ...'

Sculptor, wayfinder, friend Jack Biesek leaves a loving, creative legacy

Special to The CambrianAugust 2, 2013 

Jack’s favorite spot to immerse his body and soul in Cambria’s natural world exquisiteness was from a bluff 90 feet above the pounding surf, at Leffingwell Point. The secluded setting — shielded by cypress trees, thick sage, pines that send boughs along the
ground like God’s outstretched emerald fingers, and protected by a mystical sense of timelessness — offered comfort to him and spiritual fortification for those friends fortunate to share moments with him in that pastoral environment.

It was my good luck to have him visit Leffingwell often. “How about a Leffingwell moment later today?” he would suggest in an email. “You in?”

In sunshine, fog, wind, chilliness and rain, no matter the conditions, even if an umbrella was needed to keep the head dry, Jack was a devotee, a nature worshiper in that righteous location. He stood facing the vast, restless ocean with eyes closed and arms outstretched as though trying to capture the moment and never let it go.

He reveled in the punishing power of winter waves, in the thunder as breakers smashed against the sand and rocks, and in the sense of wildness about him.

His name was Jack Biesek, my best friend in California, a gentle, generous, highly intelligent and extraordinarily gifted designer, thinker, moral leader and sculptor, who nearly always sided with me even when perhaps I was partially — or wholly — wrong in my approach to a problem. What more could a person ask for in a friend?

I’m proud that Jack was loyal to me, and that he subscribed to The Cambrian so he could read my work, and that he listened to Bronco baseball games on KTEA-FM so he could later comment on his good friend’s play-by-play descriptions.

He would drive up from his See Canyon home to spend a late afternoon and, when the sun sank low into the distant hazy horizon, he would ask: “Where are we going to dinner guys? Linn’s? Robin’s? Indigo Moon? Sea Chest?”

We broke bread at those (and other) restaurants, but it wasn’t about where or what we ate, it was that Jack was in town and that was an exclusive opportunity for his friends. Often he would pick up the tab.

He was in a position to pay the bill because his innovative “wayfinding” technique for strategically placing signage on dozens of university campuses, in National Parks and elsewhere, brought him professional success. He produced signage for UCLA, USC, UCSB and Cal Poly, and for concert halls (Billy Wilder Theater), for the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Getty museums in Los Angeles and Malibu.

Locally, Jack presented his sculptures at Allied Arts shows, and he attended (and showed) at the annual California Sculptors Symposium at Camp Ocean Pines for several years. This past April, he attended this event for the last time.

He was thin and weary from all the toxic chemicals prescribed as interventions into his body, but he smiled at the quality of the work on display as the ocean hammered the shore nearby. Jack also attended the seventh annual Wildflower Show at the Veterans Memorial Building that April day and was captivated by the hundreds of samples plucked from around the county.

Jack passed away peacefully on June 29 after about nine months of chemotherapy, radiation, endless physician visits and tests.

He always eschewed sameness and shallowness and it was my gift from him that I was the keeper of his wonderfully original obituary. In an email to me in May he attached the obituary he wanted published in The Tribune upon his passing.  It was typical Jack. It presented nothing about his career, hobbies or special interests. “I’m more inclined to leave people thinking about the grandeur of life than recapping my accomplishments,” he wrote in the May email.

In his obituary he explained that death brings “a new adventure that will enhance me (and my essence).” He believed his spirit “will live on in some new form and I welcome that new form.” He accepted that humans are part of a “huge miracle of energy flow” that no one can comprehend.

“I hope you all get to live your dreams to the fullest,” he wrote to those perusing the obituary page in The Tribune. “Life is short. Take that trip. Take that risk. Love yourself and shine your light on others,” he added.

Then he closed not with what to do in lieu of flowers, but rather with his “neo-pledge of allegiance”: “I pledge allegiance to the earth, the sun, the sky and the stars and to the universe from where we came. Our source, unnamable, with mystery and miracles for all.”

In his last email he said he was ready for the “brave new world” waiting out there. “Spread the word,” he wrote. I replied, asking him to be sure to save me a spot.

Freelance journalist and Cambria resident John FitzRandolph’s monthly column is special to The Cambrian. Email him at johnfitz44@yahoo.com.

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