From as far back as I can remember, I’ve wished for companionship — a companion. And now as I near the last years of my life, I realize that though this dreamed-for companionship will elude me, I have somehow, in some unplanned way, filled that need with my own self.
As I bicycle down gravel roads flushing-up the unexpected grouse or wander across fields scanning the flight of a low-gliding red-tailed hawk – or pull-off the highway to photograph a wild turkey busy at its day’s work — I am companion to all that I witness. I do not travel alone.
“I dream of journeys repeatedly,” the poet Theodore Roethke wrote in “The Far Field.”
I, too, dream of journeys; but whereas once I dreamed of hiking in the company of another, canoeing down long rivers, penciling maps ahead of our day’s journey – sharing in silence the joy of a spring morning or witnessing the swoops and cries of migrating birds at summer’s end, I now pack my knapsack for solitary adventure.
Roethke asked in “The Rose” —
What do they tell us, sound and silence?…
On the banks of the Tombstone, the wind-harps having their say,
The thrush singing alone, that easy bird,
The killdeer whistling away from me,
The mimetic chortling of the catbird
Down in the corner of the garden, among the raggedy lilacs,
The bobolink skirring from a broken fencepost,
The bluebird, lover of holes in old wood, lilting its light song,
And that thin cry, like a needle piercing the ear, the insistent cicada,
And the ticking of snow around oil drums in the Dakotas,
The thin whine of telephone wires in the wind of a Michigan winter….
A solitary traveler. Having for so long wished for companionship, what have I gained in the sounds and silence of my aloneness?
I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself…
What I love is near at hand,
Always, in earth and air.
—Theodore Roethke, “The Far Field.”
I pack my knapsack, I open the door and step out. I embrace infinity. In my journey, what I love is near – always in earth and air.
Roethke, Theodore. “The Far Field.” Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, 193-195. New York: Anchor Books, 1975.
Roethke. “The Rose.” Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, 196-199.