Thursday, 27 November 2014

In at the deep end

I was sent the first wonderful poem by a friend just before going on my 30 Day Retreat. It stayed with me, resonating with my experience of being wonderfully overwhelmed, with the experience of a fellow retreatant who went swimming every day, and with the from Tagore in a card given to us by our director. The last poem is my own beginnings of a response.

House by the Sea : Carol Bialock 

I built my house by the sea.
Not on sand, mind you.
Not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock,
A strong house.
By a strong sea.
And we got well-acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier;
always the sand between.

And then one day
(I still don't know how it happened),
but the sea came.
Without warning.
Without welcome, even.
Not sudden and swift, but sifting across the sand like wine.
Less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher,
till it reached my door.

I knew, then, there was neither flight nor death nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling you stop being good neighbors,
Well-acquainted, friendly-from-a-distance neighbors.
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe under water.
Traveller, where do you go  by Rabindranath Tagore

'Traveller, where do you go?'
I go to bathe in the sea in the redd'ning dawn,
along the tree-bordered path.'

'Traveller, where is that sea?'
'There where this river ends its course,
where the dawn opens into morning,
where the day droops to the dusk.'

'Traveller, how many are they who come with you?'
I know not how to count them.
They are travelling all night with their lamps lit,
they are singing all day through land and water.'

'Traveller, how far is the sea?'
'How far is it we all ask?
The rolling roar of its water swells to the sky when we hush our talk.
It ever seems near yet far.'

'Traveller, the sun is waxing strong.'
'Yes, our journey is long and grievous.
Sing who are weary in spirit, sing who are timid of heart.'

'Traveller, what if the night overtakes you?'
'We shall lie down to sleep
till the new morning dawns with its songs,
and the call of the sea floats in the air.'

Going under

We put in a toe
have a paddle
then maybe take the plunge – or fall
into this other way of being.

Barrelling along,
floating in stillness…
or masked and snorkelled
to look down in wonder at this other world.

Until one day we’re taken by the hand
and gently pulled right under –
discovering that there is no need
for flailing panic or for gasping breath.

This is our element now, and we are in it
fully, fearless and free
gliding with him through the golden light.

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