Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Red roses on the brick walls of Amsterdam

Back in Holland after spending the last months on the boat, first in delightful Finike, south Turkey, and then sailing through the Greek islands ... Dodecanese, Cyclades (Kikladi), Corinth Canal and north to Kerkira (Corfu).

Will now attempt to fly over the poems I wrote about sailing past Ithaca (in great tradition: Pope, Tennyson and Cavafy... no less!)
Yes, it seems to have worked. My, I feel mighty clever at my technical skills...


Sailing past Ithaca
(May/June 2012)

Meditating, in the back cockpit of the boat
while we bounce onwards at six-point-five knots
mains’l hoisted and engine on
through light airs and gently rippling waters

I form a litany of my friends’ names
repeat them softly
thank them for
their support and solacing words

Because this wide empty sea
now glittering, sparkling in the noonday sun
can swiftly change

black clouds can mass and coil
wind whip up dark water
foes appear from an unseen beyond.

Now not another vessel near
We are lone silent souls in our small barque
land far away ... distant mountains just discernible
dim through a veil of mist

The engine rumbles, grumbles
our wake spreads white flecked behind.

I fear this sea and the dark waters
Inside me lurk black terrors
deeper than explanation.

So chant my litany of loved one’s names
Medusa-shielded ...

Approaching Ithaca (Itaki) June 2014

We did not land
There was no Telemachus to greet us
no old blind dog to meet us
But we sailed across the pewter sea to Ithaca
and stood on our ship’s deck and looked:
saw the white mist gathering faintly in the distance
saw the many islets humping out of the water
some like long-dormant dinosaurs
some small, scrub-covered, steep-sided
rimmed at the water’s edge with white rock

Saw the sea, limpid, puckered by whiffs of wind
three-dimensional patchwork of minuscule mountains
and flat-ironed in places;
Saw the black tips of distant sails
piercing the pale horizon.
Always the burning blue above.
And we sheltered in the shadow of our sails
and sipped cool water, and gazed.

So this is Ithaca, our place of home
where we were born and raised
whose dialect we speak and understand
Soon there will be immediate recognition
We will not have to struggle to translate idioms
from a language not our own.
Ithaca, our home, whose songs we learnt in youth
whose dances our old feet do not forget ...

Do we sing, “Oh sweet and blessed country”?
Can we drop anchor and forget ...
the battles and the scars
the cruel recriminations, voices screaming
cataracts of rage and jealousy
the daily task of weaving intricacy
only to unravel each day’s work as darkness falls...

We should forget our kingdom and our crown
Let us sail on

(Wendie Shaffer, 24 June 2014)

And now I am meditating on what is home ... Found I was immensely happy to be back in the Netherlands, at least, in The Hague and Amsterdam, close to my family and friends.
Even though it has been softly mizzling the past couple of days.
Am putting my house in order, literally. There is so much overbodig troep (unnecessary clutter!) that has accululated over the years.
Away with it!

The sailing has not finshed yet. Just a summer pause. on land While the back of the house is painted.

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