WORDS LIKE LIGHT
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Note: I start my reflection today with a quote from a poem by John Keats. In this poem, Keats writes about how the Spanish explorer Cortez and his men must have felt when, in their explorations, they reached a mountain peak where, to their surprise, they suddenly saw a vast body of water, later to be named ‘the Pacific Ocean’.
“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent upon a peak in Darien.”
— John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
I’m always hoping to more often feel what “stout Cortez” and his men felt on that “peak in Darien”. Keats pictures them standing on a hill above the Pacific Ocean, staggered by the scene, and I would like to foster more of that kind of bewilderment and wonder in my life. Cortez and his men saw a startling sight, and every day – every moment – I am witness to scenes which, in their own special ways, are just as amazing. Hard as it is to remember during the sometimes wearisome routines of the day, the various circumstances that arise around me are as unique and mystifying as the Pacific Ocean, and really, the only suitable response to them is honest amazement. The life I share with Delycia is my “Darien”, and wherever I happen to be is the “peak” where I can look “with a wild surmise” at the inscrutable magnificence of life. A “surmise” is a guess, a supposition, a hunch, and that’s honestly all I have when it comes to understanding the things I see and experience. In the end, they’re all complete conundrums to me. If you ask me to make clear the mystery of even the simplest circumstance – the look of lamplight on a table, the sound of a car coming past the house, the whole sky shining at 7:00 a.m. — all I could do is make a hit-or-miss guess, a “wild surmise”. A better response might be to stay respectfully silent, like the astonished explorer and his men.
Below … some scenes from our walk on Napatree Beach this morning …
… and here’s Delycia with her next-door neighbor friend …