Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sailing Toward Ithaca



When I was a child I was enamored of mythology. We had two books of myths that filled my imagination to overflowing.  For some reason, that probably had to do with my own desire to escape the confines of my birth place, I kept returning to Icarus and his attempted escape from Crete. He flew on wings his father had made of feathers with wax to seal them. It wasn't the best choice of materials. I suppose he made do with what he had, this being well before the invention of superglue. Despite his father's warnings poor Icarus flew too close to the sun.  It didn't end well.


                                               "The Lament for Icarus"   Herbert Draper


I remember my brief confusion when I realized there were two sets of stories, Greek and Roman, each with the same or a similar story line, with the characters names the obvious difference. It took me a little time to figure this all out, but eventually some of these myths had a character or characteristic, or even a name I preferred over others. Couldn't begin to tell you what they all were now.

It wasn't until I was a teenager that the Odyssey came into my life via tenth grade English class. I became fascinated by this story of Odysseus, the Trojan War, and his journey home. Beset by trials and tribulation, not to mention a delay or two, the names of the principle players and the creatures that tried to thwart his efforts at reaching home all rang a very old bell.

Mmmm. It wasn't until this moment I realized something: while I was reading the poem, "Ithaca," by C. P. Cavafy, at our poetry reading Sunday night, the neighbor's cat, Penelope, was sitting nearby, keeping vigil. Penelope is the name of Odysseus' wife who kept a vigil for her husband, waiting many years for his return. Sort of.

Huh.

The Odyssey takes place on the sea, but it can also take place in a forest or the desert. It represents the journey we are all on, each of us journeying to Ithaca. I've run across a Cyclops or two (not referring to anyone in particular), allowed some delays to take place, perhaps spent too much time at those Phoenician trading stations. Yep, I'm still learning, and attempting to fill my days with  "sensual perfume of every kind," all while trying to stay away from angry Poseidon and those nasty Laestrygonians. Yes, we do have control over what we hold in our thought and carry in our soul.

Here is Sean Connery reading  "Ithaca,"  with music by Vangelis.



17 comments:

  1. Ahh, I've ran across a few cyclops myself on my journey. It's been a wild and bumpy ride, and I'm ready for more!

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  2. Very nice piece.I read all I could when I first found it.I really enjoy Native American stories.

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  3. Isn;t it great when all the connections come together and make sense?

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  4. Very beautiful, Teresa. Nothing to add but my appreciation for your wandering and wondering spirit.

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  5. Allegories. We're on our own journeys just like the gods of ancient times. We're all in this together across the ages.

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  6. I have been on an Odyssey or two of my own, Teresa. I am totally unsurprised that you have always loved mythical stories... :-)

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  7. luv, luv, Sean Connery's voice! I could sit and listen to him read the phone book, but this reading was divine. This is wonderful.

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  8. Thank you for your comments. I am enjoying this journey to Ithaca with all of you. You are fine companions. Not a Cyclops in the bunch. :)

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  9. That was wonderful. I am also a fan of Greek Mythology, and the story of Odysseus, but I never really thought of it as our own journey through life. I've faced Cyclops, and listened to the Sirens. I've also been tempted by Calypso's and dealt with the Circes of the world. The more I think about my own mistakes , failures but also my triumphs in overcoming things, the more the story has meaning. Thank you for sharing this with me, and getting me to contemplate my own Ithaca.

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  10. Bothered, I'm glad this brought some things into focus for you. The story of Odysseus (aka Ulysses) has been told in many forms. It has been said that the Coen Brother's movie, "Oh Brother, Where are Thou?" is a retelling of this story. There are some wonderful metaphors for Life. Mythology creates an interesting approach. Thank you for your comments.

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  11. I've been on my own journey to Ithaca these days, the obstacles have been formidable. These fables have so many "real" truths, it is hard not to use them to plot your life.

    I, too, was a big fan of Icarus. Although I was in high school when introduced to the story. Couldn't get the story out of my mind for weeks.

    Thanks. This was thought provoking.

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  12. Hi Bill, Interesting that Icarus caught your attention, too. He probably deserves his own post. All these many years later and I can still recall his influence on my thinking.

    I hope your obstacles disappear, followed by smooth sailing.

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  13. Thank you thank you.. I love this post. So inspiring. Ahh Icarus, feather man!

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  14. Mythology was a great escape for me as a child; I too was a fan of Greek and Roman mythology. Having gone to Catholic schools, the mythological gods somehow seemed more believable to me than those other gods, but perhaps it was the more romantic notion of them that appealed to me, the fauns wandering in the woods or the lessons contained within the stories. My life has been a great journey but the past pales in comparison to today's journeys.

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  15. Joan, I love that little flying being you have on your new post. Yes! A little Icarus! :)

    Linda, I think it is part romantic notion and sometimes it's just this nameless thing that grabs us and won't let go. I somehow knew you were a mythology person, too. :)

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  16. Ancient history and mythology are fascinating and illuminate what made ancient cultures great.

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  17. Hi Paul, I sometimes wonder if ancient cultures weren't more advanced than we in many ways....
    Thanks for commenting.

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