Friday, October 24, 2008

THE MYSTICAL SPIRIT OF PLACE


The Rose by Theodore Roethke

I
There are those to whom place is unimportant,
But this place, where sea and fresh water meet,
Is important-
Where the hawks sway out into the wind,
Without a single wingbeat,
And the eagles sail low over the fir trees,
And the gulls cry against the crows
In the curved harbors,
And the tide rises up against the grass
Nibbled by ship and rabbits.
A time for watching the tide,
For the heron's hieratic fishing,
For the sleepy cries of the towhee,
The morning birds gone, the twittering finches,
But still the flash of the kingfisher, the wingbeat of the scoter.
The sun a ball of fire coming down over the water,
The last geese crossing against the reflected afterlight,
The moon retreating into a vague cloudshape
To the cries of the owl, the eerie whooper.
The old log subsides with the lessening waves,
And there is silence.
I sway outside myself
Into the darkening currents,
Into the small spillage of driftwood,
The waters swirling past the tiny headlands.
Was it here I wore a crown of birds for a moment
While on a far point of the rocks
The light heightened, and below, in a mist out of nowhere,
The first rain gathered?

IV
I live with the rocks, their weeds,
Their filmy fringes of green, their harsh
Edges, their holes
Cut by the sea-slime, far from the crash of the long swell,
The oily, tar-laden walls
Of the toppling waves,
Where the salmon ease their way into the kelp beds,
And the sea rearranges itself among the small islands.
Near this rose, in this grove of sun-parched, wind-warped madronas,
Among the half-dead trees,
I came upon the true ease of myself,
As if another man appeared out of the depths of my being,
And I stood outside myself,
Beyond becoming and perishing,
A something wholly other,
As if I swayed out on the wildest wave alive,
And yet was still.
And I rejoiced in being what I was:
In the lilac change, the white reptilian calm,
In the bird beyond the bough, the single one
With all the air to greet him as he flies,
The dolphin rising from the darkening waves;
And in this rose, this rose in the sea-wind,
Rooted in stone, keeping the whole of light,
Gathering to itself sound and silence-
Mine and the sea-wind's.

[Roethke has always been my favorite poet. This particular poem sums up how I felt during my Morro Bay trip. It was indeed mystical and magical. I used these two sections of the poem as they were the most relevant.]

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