December 22nd, 2010 – Christmas Week
This morning as I was drinking my coffee I heard the poem “Voyage,” on “A Writer’s Almanac” on NPR. I literally stopped in my tracks as I listened, coffee cup held in mid-air. You know how every once in a while a poem or song just grabs you, and seems to be speaking for you – capturing exactly your experience, only in better words? That’s how I feel about this poem.
I love the part where he says, “At night we consoled ourselves/ by discussing the meaning of homesickness./But there was no home to go home to./There was no getting around the ocean./We had to go on finding out the story/by pushing into it—”
That’s how I feel this morning – homesick, adrift, no getting around this homeless ocean. And yet I love the ocean; I dream of it constantly. I woke up this morning dreaming of the sea and walking the beach. And in some strange way, I love this odd voyage of loss and insight, the daily expressions of love and friendship, the daily pain of loss and disappointment. This journey is teaching me lessons I never wanted to learn. I have to go on “finding the story,” and I am anxious for the next chapter.
Last night I was at a Solstice gathering, and a friend, a poet, said, “I’ve been reading your blog and wow. I didn’t know you could write like that.” I replied, “I didn’t know I could write like that either.” Another strange gift of Fire. Somehow losing everything has pushed me into a new place, where words seem to form themselves, and ask to be shared.
As Dickens wrote, so long ago, it is the best of times, and it is the worst of times, and finally, after all these years, I know what he means. He means that Life gives us the agony and the ecstasy, every day, all mixed up, all at once, without our permission. That Best and Worst are part and parcel of each other, that sorrow and loss are only the flip sides of joy and gratitude, and they all exist, together, in everything, all around us. All we have to do is turn over that rock and see what’s on the other side.
As Hoagland writes, it is our “marvelous punishment.”
Today the light returns, Winter is at its peak, and it’s all downhill from here. Longer days, shorter nights, and with luck, no regrets.
Wishing You a Merry Christmas Week, and Lots of Love,
Andi and Nellie
I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on
in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.
—And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, “I’m only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It’s turning cold.”
Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That’s the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage—
And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,
I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.
And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.
Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.
At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it—
The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.
“Voyage” by Tony Hoagland, from Hard Rain. © Hollyridge Press, 2005. (buy now)