Friday, October 14, 2011

Swimming in the Sea of Dreams

The wind is roughing things up a bit out there today. A panel on the tin roof of the garden shed has come loose and is moving back and forth in the wind. It rolls back, then comes crashing down on the rafters. It does this over and over like ocean waves breaking on the shore. I've made a note and tomorrow, when the wind has died down, I'll walk back there and find a way to nail it down again. There are a few odd jobs left before we move down the road toward winter.

Yesterday afternoon, I revisited a poetry site that Michael at  had mentioned to me. It includes many of my favorite poets: Mary Oliver, of course, David Whyte, Naomi Shihab Nye, Rilke and Rumi, along with many others. It also includes this woman, Wislawa Szymborska. I read through several of her poems and felt very drawn to her voice, what she had to say and how she said it, but this one stood out. It continues to grow on me, and has given me much to think about while I go about my day. I've asked myself a few questions in response to it. But first, the poem:


Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches entangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echos stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

~ Wislawa Szymborska
        (translation by S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh)

The questions I posed to myself ran along these lines. I call them, 'What If.'

What if the sea into which we all seem to have plunged is really the Sea of Dreams?  What if we've never really left that island, that island where all becomes clear?   What if we're still standing on solid ground and have access to all roads?  What if we're only dreaming in the Sea of Dreams and every day we can choose instead to live with the weight of proofs, eat from the Tree of Understanding (remember, it's straight and simple), as we sit beside the spring of Now I Get It?

What if the wind does, if we let it, dispel all doubts instantly?  What if all the secrets of the world are explained in an echo, the echo we hear while swimming in the Sea of Dreams?  What if we can choose to rest in the cave where Meaning lies and bathe in the Lake of Deep Conviction, swimming through Truth?   What if we really live in the foothills of Unshakable Confidence, sheltered by its strength, as we walk through the Valley of Obviously, among the Essence of Things?

What if the island is not uninhabited, but the "faint footprints scattered on its beaches" are really the suggestion of myriad ideas who still roam freely on this island?  What if only in dreaming do we believe we've plunged into the depths of unfathomable life?  What if all we have to do is wake up and realize we've never really left this island, that we can simply stand up on solid ground, still there beneath our feet?  Look down. See those faint footprints in the sand?   What if they're yours?

Painting by Winslow Homer


  1. If I had something banging all the time, I wouldn't be able to think of things like this, I'd just want to fix it. I think perhaps I'm very sensitive to noise.

  2. That was a really good post. Very thought provoking. I called my 78 yr old neighbor and read it to her. She liked it, too!

  3. The wind died down this afternoon. All solved.

  4. Thanks, Michael. I'm glad you liked it, and thank you for directing me to that site. It's given me many fine poems to read and ponder. That you read it to your neighbor makes me happy. I'm glad she liked it, too.

  5. We decide and by deciding we bring forth reality. The Uncerainty Principle is a certainty. Although Albert didn't like it, Niels and Werner were right. Hee Hee Hee

  6. Exactly so, Cletis. It all comes down to the choices we make, every moment. What fun, to have been privy to their conversations.

    Thanks, Cletis. Love your Van Morrison post today.

  7. Try using a screw instead of a nail and perhaps it won't come loose again; careful too.

    Indeed, what if, and if we believe what if, then it's all possible, and can all be true, a beautiful poem, full of hope and possibilities.

  8. Hi Linda, I have roofing nails, but a screw might be better. Thanks. And it sounds like you've been around tin roofs before - something you don't want to deal with while it's still blowin' in the wind! Yikes!

    I'm glad you saw all the possibilities in this poem.

  9. Funny, I just finished reading "The Disappearance of The Universe" and that got me to start "A Course In Miracles" again. I read ACIM almost 20 years ago, but I am sure I will hear things differently this time around. It's all about how all of earth and humanity is a dream we're stuck in. That we chose to separate from God/Oneness and this is what we created and where our original sin and guilt comes from. But we have never really left at all. We just can't believe that we could be forgiven and find unending ways to punish ourselves. I'm not expressing this very well, but I am reading about an entire concept that is so similar to what you are talking about. Wow! :):)

  10. Hi Rita, I am quite familiar with ACIM. I occasionally return to it at random to see what it has to say and always find a lesson that meets my need in that moment. It really does come down to the choices/decisions we make. Always. Even when it's hard to admit. :)

    That's my belief.

  11. While walking the other day i came to that fork in the traail and wonderd which way to go. I walked for another hour only to return to my original point. I guess I should have went right, as i had thought after walking down the left side.I will have to revisit my wrong decision again, I did find a lot of beauty.

  12. Steve, With every side trip I've taken I've learned something of value. It's all good, as they say.

  13. That utopia
    Means nowhere in Latin,
    Be here now I say.

  14. Teresa, she is a Polish woman and she has won the 1996 Nobel Prize for literature.

  15. Paul, Utopia = nowhere
    nowhere = now here

  16. This is the Teresa that I love. Walking through her amazing mind and sharing her thoughts with us.
    I LOVE THIS POEM... But even more, I love your last two paragraphs. This is what intelligent blogging is all about. You never disappoint.
    I love your ponderings.
    I really think that this "Utopia" is right here, inside of us. We simply, well.. not simply, make a choice.

    "...For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
    and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
    turn without exception to the sea.
    As if all you can do is leave
    and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
    Into unfathomable life."
    I agree... the footprints may be our own, wandering and seeking something wonderful... as the wave of life finally says "Enough. You only needed to accept what is. and sweeps you into another place.
    My very favorite part of all this is when you wrote,
    "What if all the secrets of the world are explained in an echo, the echo we hear while swimming in the Sea of Dreams?"\
    I'm trying to listen...

  17. farmlady, Yes, Yes, and Yes! Utopia is inside us, some would say "the kingdom of heaven," It's all inside us.

    I'm so glad you see my line about echoes....

    I'm trying to listen, too. When I do, the choices,/decisions come so much easier, with such fine results.

    Thank You, so very much.

  18. And what if the island is the Oneness that unites all of us? The Divinity of our Oneness has been for so long a dream. But what if the dream is the reality?

    The poems of Wistawa Szymborska speak profoundly to me too. Do you know her poem "The Joy of Writing." She speaks so clearly to me in it.

    May you ask your questions in peace.

  19. Dee, You have touched on an essential aspect to this poem - Oneness. I have no doubt that the "Divinity of our Oneness," as you've so beautifully put it, is the Reality. Thank you so much for telling me about that poem. I will find it. It's not among the ones I've read so far.

    Thank You.

  20. Hej Teresa. It's a very special poem. She tells us about an island in the sea, a beautiful secure island , but uninhabited except the footprints all turning to the sea. We are alone. Is the island our life? Although no man is an island then we are alone in the final moment, where the only choice we've got is to plunge out into the depths. It's like she's saying that there is nothing after those depths.

    Or else I'm in a parallel universe!
    Grethe ´)

  21. Hi Grethe, We do each bring our own perceptions to poetry, as we do with all art. The final line about plunging into the depths of "unfathomable life" indicates she feels there is something we regard as life in the depths. It's always a bit tricky,trying to understand what a poet or writer really intends, especially through a translation, but we try and we see what we see.

    Or, we're all in parallel universes. :)

  22. One day last week our neighbor's tinny old shed took flight like a tumbleweed, sailed through the air and landed smack in the middle of our driveway. It clearly was not nailed down properly!

    This is a wonderful poem. I need to read it several more times to fully absorb it's meanings. But I do love the line about the truth bobbing to the surface.

  23. "Be crumbled
    So wildflowers will come up where you are.."

    Rumi says what you say. It IS all about Oneness...

  24. Flying tin sheets can be dangerous. Having it land in your drive must have been a bit disconcerting. My loose panel wouldn't go too far, and no close neighbors to worry about, but I knew I didn't want to be near it with the wind blowing....

    I like that line, too.

    Thanks, Cheryl. Nice to hear from you again.

  25. Akannie, Understanding our Oneness has been an essential aspect to my spiritual studies all my adult life. I'm starting to get it, but practicing it, demonstrating it daily, is sometimes a challenge.

    I've learned much from both Rumi and Hafiz.

    Thanks for coming by!

  26. Hej Teresa! I think you're right. I made an egoistic evaluation!
    I have read some of her poems now. When you read one poem from a poet, then the interest comes. What did she write? You know the poem "The Three Oddest Words"? I'll take it here, because it is so short ! One of these oddest words is Silence. When she pronounces Silence, then she kills it. And that's so right!

    Today I have found my winter clothes and put away my summer clothes. Now I'm really beginning to feel the cold. Uhuuu....
    Cheers and Wruff!
    Grethe `)

  27. Hi Grethe, Never a problem here. We are All looking at these ideas from our own egos. It's hard to avoid. :) I've done some further reading, but have not found that one yet, "The Three Oddest Words." I'm so glad you're giving me individual titles to take a look at. Thank You!

    It's gotten quite chilly here and windy again today. Jacket weather for certain.

    Buddy is outside saying Wruff! to you! Now I must go and retrieve the retriever.

  28. Wonderful. I will be back to ponder on all this again! Thank you.

  29. I love your blog profile photo! Gorgeous flowers, gorgeous dog, gorgeous you!

  30. Joan, so good to see your name here again after your travels. I'm so enjoying reading about them. It's a bit of vicarious traveling for me, and I thank you!

    Amber, Thank you. It's a good life Buddy and I have here together. So glad you stopped by.

  31. ooo how lovely and though provoking! I stopped by here from Kittie's blog. I like the way you think.
    I have to confess tho, I thought of the show Lost while reading your notes. lol I think I've been watching way too much of it lately. :)
    Nice to meet you!

  32. Hi PK, I didn't watch Lost often, but the times I did watch, it asked some intriguing questions.

    Thanks for stopping by.