Turnstone

Shards, Sweepings, Stealings, Sayings, Secrets

Month: September, 2010

Lost And Confused (6)

 “It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. Often in a snow storm, even by day, one will come out upon a well-known road and yet find it impossible to tell which way leads to the village. Though he knows that he has travelled it a thousand times, he cannot recognize a feature in it, but it is as strange to him as if it were a road in Siberia. By night, of course, the perplexity if infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks, we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our usual course we still carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned round, – for a man needs only to be turned round once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost, – do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

Henry David Thoreau  Walden

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Lost And Confused (5)

A Camino Sonnet

It’s too late now. There is no turning back.
I am no saint. But sinner’s near the mark,
Counting my errors on this endless track,
Counting my failures in this endless dark.
The world is too much with us, someone said,
Nasty, brutish and short, it’s been portrayed,
A daily grind to earn our daily bread,
A pitiable, heartless, sad parade.
Surely there’s something more than grief and strife?
Some gleam of grace, some glimmer of shook foil,
Some chink of light, a glimpse of some bright life,
Before we shuffle off this mortal coil?
There’s no success like failure. Through the hail
And rain I quest, the better for to fail.

The Solitary Walker

Yesterday’s poem was written after completing (or rather four-fifths completing) my third Camino in January and February this year. I wrote today’s poem about half way through the trek. Mentally this was the toughest walk I’d ever done: I met few other pilgrims, and was quite alone for days, if not weeks, at a time. Physically I also found it a challenge. Not that there had been many difficult hills to climb – much of the route is fairly level (except when you reach Galicia). No,  the physical challenge lay in negotiating the waterlogged ground, the saturated paths, the swollen streams and rivers – often battling  with a head wind and sometimes with snow. Last winter had been one of Spain’s worst, certainly wettest, for many, many years.  

In my poem the phrases in italics are direct quotes from William Wordsworth, Thomas Hobbes, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Shakespeare and Bob Dylan respectively. The last line refers to Samuel Beckett’s famous remark: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Though at first glance this sonnet may seem despairing, it’s really about searching and questing; and I think there’s some redemptive hope in the last two lines.

Lost And Confused (4)

All By Myself

I’ve leaned so much
On conchas and flechas amarillas,
I fear I may be lost
Without them.

So now
(Guided by no maps or marker stones,
Pricking no shelled and arrowed way,
No trail angel appearing mysteriously
At a crossroads in the middle of a prairie
To point the right path)
I’ll try contact
Some benign spirit deep within
For comfort and counsel;

Though along the Way I learned,
All by myself, with sweat and tears,
That the more I’m lost, the more I’m found,
And that all roads lead to somewhere and to nowhere.

The Solitary Walker

Lost And Confused (3)

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to say what that wood was, so savage and harsh and strong that the thought of it renews my fear! It is so bitter that death is little more so! But to treat of the good that I found there, I will tell of the other things I saw. I cannot really say how I entered there, so full of sleep was I at the point when I abandoned the true path…”  Dante Inferno Canto 1

Lost And Confused (2)

Mixed-Up Confusion

I got mixed up confusion
Man, it’s a-killin’ me

Well, there’s too many people
And they’re all too hard to please

Well, my hat’s in my hand
Babe, I’m walkin’ down the line

An’ I’m lookin’ for a woman
Whose head’s mixed up like mine

Well, my head’s full of questions
My temp’rature’s risin’ fast

Well, I’m lookin’ for some answers
But I don’t know who to ask

But I’m walkin’ and wonderin’
And my poor feet don’t ever stop

Seein’ my reflection
I’m hung over, hung down, hung up

 Bob Dylan

I think we all, at one time or another, must have been in the state Dylan describes here. There are times in one’s life when the demands of a frenetic society become just too much, when the questions pounding feverishly around one’s brain seem to have no answer. It’s interesting that, in this personal crisis, Dylan (or Dylan’s protagonist in the song) chooses to, or can’t help but, go walking (“I’m walkin’ down the line … But I’m walkin’ and wonderin’/And my poor feet don’t ever stop”) Walking as therapy is a fascinating subject, and one I hope to explore in a future post on my Solitary Walker blog.

Lost And Confused (1)

“This may be one of the underappreciated pleasures of travel: of being at last legitimately lost and confused…”

“I like inconclusiveness, like a conversation that will always need more to be said…”

Rebecca Solnit A Book Of Migrations