Myth on the Highway

May 6, 2013


by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wildpp
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

I love this poem.  I cannot read it without speaking it out loud, even when I’m alone!  It rolls of the tongue with the cadence of a road trip; sights zipping by, glimpses of this, flashes of that– and then just an instant of this divine, mythic tableau of swans…and you’re gone.

Yet the image within is not gone.  Perhaps you are breathing faster, heart pumping, elated– hands on the steering wheel, foot on the pedal, but no longer in the car.  You’re back there, worshipping the fairy tale.

What if today we assumed an attitude of waiting to be surprised?  How many split-second encounters with beauty, kindness, or nobility might take our breath away– might catch the heart off guard and blow it open?

Let’s find out…

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