Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ithaka

Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Plaque at Aetos, Ithaka, 1985.


i first came to the greek island of ithaka in 1984, with an archaeological team in search of the palace of odysseus. i had no idea at the time that this trip would change my life forever. perhaps it was because i was a young woman in my 20s, just out of graduate school, perhaps it was the pull of this legendary place - but an alchemical reaction occurred when i arrived on the island's shores. my bond with this place, often turbulent, but always numinous, became permanent, and i have been returning to this holy ground - and for me it is holy ground - for over 20 years now.

just like odysseus.

no, we never found the palace. but i have moved on from that search. i found something else here, a treasure much more meaningful to me. something about the greek soil causes me to return, like odysseus - but a female version of the adventurer......because something in this landscape compels me to transform archetypes.


the greek poet constantine cavafy wrote a poem entitled ithaka, and it has become a guidepost for my life. the third stanza begins.........keep ithaka always in your mind. arriving there is what you're destined for, but don't hurry the journey.


there is more than one ithaka ---- the physical island itself....and the people, places and things that one yearns for over the course of a lifetime....

regardless of the translation, i will be forever grateful. she has given me a marvelous journey......and i am finally beginning to understand what these ithakas mean.


Ithaka

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 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 may 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've reached 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.


Constantine Cavafy, 1911


hope your road is a long one. xo♡a

8 comments:

  1. Oh, isn't that lovely! I'm going to copy that down into my journal. I think those are wonderful words for life. Don't hurry, full of adventure, full of discovery. XOXO

    Love your new blog header, btw!

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  2. Lovely....throught-provoking verses. I love the header and the photo of you! Greece IS a magical place. I only visited there twice, but will never forget it.

    The poem makes me think of one of my favourite T.S. Elliot ones: "We shall not cease from exploration
    and the end of our exploring
    will be to arrive where we started
    and know the place for the first time."

    Hugs from San Francisco!

    ♥ Robin ♥

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  3. I love that image of you as the female Odysseus and your new header. Thanks for introducing me to a new poet too. You are lucky to live your dream.

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  4. I've never been to Greece, but I would LOVE to. Thanks for this. so much of life (even away from Greece) is a re-enactment of the myths. Very cool ideas here. Thanks.

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  5. A remarkable poem! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.

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  6. japra - glad you like the new header and i'm so happy the poem struck a chord. there is something so ancient yet at the same time completely contemporary about it - they are truly words for life ~
    xoxo

    ------
    robin, i love that poem as well - poetry at its height, combining elements of eastern spirituality and physics - eliot was a genius.

    would love to hear more about your Greece trips sometime...maybe in a blogpost?!

    so glad you like the new header/foto combo!!

    return hugs♡ xoxo

    ------
    sarah, i'm happy to hear that the transformation of the male adventurer archetype to a female one resonates with you! i do feel lucky to be able to return to ithaka and follow that dream.

    cavafy doesn't receive the exposure other poets do so it's an honor to be able to introduce him into your life♡

    -------
    reya, i agree - we are forever reenacting those myths - they don't die, but just transform themselves...

    i too hope you will travel to greece someday - you will be able to pick up on all the psychic layers that accompany the archaeological ones

    glad this resonated with you♡

    ------
    rosaria, i love sharing this poem and am happy you enjoyed it. the only time it got public exposure was when it was read at Jackie Kennedy Onassis' funeral at her request.

    xoxo

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  7. I think he must have had you in mind when he wrote those lines in the third stanza Amanda*!*

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  8. wish that it were so, annie - even tho it was written for everyone who is traveling towards their own 'ithakas' these words resonate very deeply in my heart.

    xoxo's

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