• Roberta Rathert

About to Set Out...

I am about to set out on my water journey in coming days, one that reminds me of this writing below, given to me by one of my oldest friends. Lin, she is one I’ve known since I was eighteen, 50 years ago. At ten years apart always, she is closer to 80 now, more than ever. Me being the same distance from 70 just doesn’t seem the same. Although we know it is. Still 50 years since we met, that in itself is a journey, and a good one.

My river trip is imminent. I am filled with thoughts rising at odd times of day and night, just about as full as my supply-filled boat. Here is a thought that passed by today. If paddling in solitude for hours or days, I will wish for human company. Then, after time with humans, maybe, I’ll be longing for my familiar friend…seclusion. However it goes, I hope I survive it to return filled with tales to tell. My friend Christi, she says, “you’ll write a book.” “I don’t know,” I say, “Maybe.”

Some of the story I return with might be the treasures I bring back from my Ithaka: “fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfume of every kind ” this being part of C.P. Cavafy’s writing here, given to me by my oldest friend, a true Sage. Efcharisto, Lin.


ITHAKA

BY C. P. CAVAFY

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn't have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


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