Why I like wild places...
|Calgary Bay, Scotland|
|Kapiti Island, New Zealand|
The landscape and the wildlife it contains change at different times of the day. Our senses become more attuned to the scents that spring out of the darkness and the sound of the lapping of every wave against the bows of the boat.
Humanity has always directed dreams of reverence up to the sky at night. It's nice to just sit there in awe of it all.
Elephants listen by putting trunks on the ground and carefully positioning their feet. Their trunks are sensitive to vibrations, they have special receptors in their feet which pick up the sound as it travels through the ground, and hearing receptors in their ears.
It focus on the importance of being "mindful" when you travel, fully inhabiting the given moment and experiencing everything around you to the full. It encourages us to be endlessly curious and grateful for the wonderful things we encounter along the way. Most importantly, it celebrates the joy of coming home.
The word "dépaysement" springs to mind. It means to "decountrify oneself". When you return home from exploring a different country and culture, you see it with a fresh pair of eyes. You have a new perspective on the world you live in and your place in it.
Some of the lyricism and rhyme of the original is probably lost in translation from the Greek, but it's still a powerful piece that speaks to the reader in any language.
* * *
When you set out for Ithaka
Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy -
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn't deceived you.
* * *
The poet's wise words are draw inspiration from Odysseus’ ten year voyage home from the Trojan war. The twists, turns and adventures Odysseus encounters are used as a metaphor for a fulfilling life by Cavafy, just as they were by Homer in the original epic poems.
Cavafy is saying that the things that really matter in life in the end are experiences and memories. Some people always find the straight and easy path, avoiding distractions and detours. When they reach the end, what do they have to show for it?
We're told not to be worried about scary monsters like the Cyclops (there's no such thing). Equally a person without internal strife is less likely to encounter external strife.
The harbours are happy times and places in the life of the reader where pleasure, knowledge and experience are gained. The Phoenician trading stations symbolize times in life when one is exposed to art and beauty and culture. The poet urges us to enjoy luxury and beauty when the chance arises. One should appreciate the fine things that come into one’s path for the sake of the experience and not to amass treasures.
He suggests we visit Egyptian cities often, which symbolise times of knowledge and education. Education is not something that is sought once in life. Rather, we should be endlessly curious and enjoy life-long learning.
Ithaka, Odysseus’ island kingdom, is both the starting and ending place. The place we come from shape us and make us what we are. Ironically, the farther people get from home (physically, temporally, and ideologically) the more they want to return.
So, take your time on your journey through life, stopping to obtain wisdom, pleasure and experience. Happy travels folks and a happy homecoming too!
Why I like walking...
- The Inca trails and Machu Picchu, Peru
- Jurassic Coast, UK
- Cairngorns, UK
- Haytor, Devon, UK
the Gower Peninsula, UK; Annapurna region, Nepal; Ardèche, France; and Pennine Way, UK.