Wednesday, July 02, 2003

This begins as what appears to be a ramble, but there is a poem at the end and the parts in the middle will take the reader in a convoluted way from here to there with a modicum of adhesion. If, that is, the reader can postpone impatience and take the journey slow as a Southern drawl - like a story told on a Sunday afternoon from an old porch swing, between sips of sweet iced-tea with lemon in tall, green glasses dripping the cold sweat of summer humidity.

Yes, it is that sort of ramble. Is there any other for one so entrenched in the life south of the Mason-Dixon line?

The only thing causing pause in progress is the decision of whether to start at the beginning and proceed sequentially or start in the middle and weave in the beginning or start at the end and tell how I came to be here. I will start somewhere that could be any of these, depending on your personal interpretation.

I am learning a new language. I have entered the second half of the first century of this lifetime – optimistically speaking – with the realization that one language is not enough, should never have been enough, simply does not say enough. It does not speak enough. I have come to realize there is much I have never heard because I did not have the language to hear it. So, I have begun to learn Spanish.

There are many reasons for this and many motivations. It began as a wish to describe the blue of a Mexican sky and discovering it could only be done in the language of that sky. English can talk about it, but English cannot be it. I need the language of that sky to be the sky, to speak for the sky. That was the beginning. Georgia O’Keefe once wrote, “It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough I could have it.” Perhaps I heard the same voice tell me if I could write it, name it, be it as it is, I can have it. But for that I need words I do not yet have.

There are more practical reasons that are merely intellectual justification. The reality is the language of the Romans, and the languages derived from that language, speak more deeply within us. I have found listening to the language, without understanding the words, reveals its own message, and it is very pleasing to the ear. As I gain tiny illuminations of understanding, the pleasure is intensified.

This has been said to make the reader aware of my recent and developing interest in the language of Spain. From there the story segues into my daily practice of reading the “poem of the day” at Poetry Daily . I only occasionally find a nugget to savor, but when I do it is quite a savor. I found one of those this week entitled Sea Washes Sand Scours Sea by Tom Vander Ven. Now, in fairness to Mr. Vander Ven, his poem is worth a read, and I do hope you will look it up and find as much to treasure as I. I have printed it out and pinned it to the bulletin board next to the computer, and I will share it with others when time permits. However, I think one poem is enough to include in this ramble, and for this I have chosen another one.

Vander Ven introduces his poem with the following quote from another poet:

No hay camino. El camino se hace al andar. – Antonio Machado

My ear heard the sounds of those words, and my mind flew in search of meaning. With the help of I found the source. I subsequently rushed out to locate a book by this poet, preferably with English translation and was very fortunate to find one copy at a local Barnes & Noble. The book title is Antonio Machado: Selected Poems, and the editor/translator is Alan Trueblood, espoused by some critics to be one of the truer translations.

I am very pleased. I have found one more reason, perhaps the more sustainable reason, for learning another language.

from Proverbs and Song-Verse


Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista astrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.



Wayfarer, the only way
is your footsteps, there is no other.
Wayfarer, there is no way,
you make the way as you go.
As you go, you make the way
and stopping to look behind,
you see the path that your feet
will never travel again.
Wayfarer, there is no way-
only foam trails in the sea.

- Antonio Machado

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