Travel | Culture | Exploration | Poetry

By Where We Have Been

Dove that ventured outside, flying far from the dovecote:
housed and protected again, one with the day, the night,
knows what serenity is, for she has felt her wings

pass through all distance and fear in the course of her wanderings.

The doves that remained at home, never exposed to loss,
innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness;
only the won-back heart can ever be satisfied: free,
through all it has given up, to rejoice in its mastery.

Being arches itself over the vast abyss.
Ah the ball that we dared, that we hurled into infinite space,
doesn’t it fill our hands differently with its return:
heavier by the weight of where it has been.
—Rainder Maria Rilke, Dove that ventured outside

We wanderers are all chafing to break free. To arc across the abyss once again, and land in places foreign and mysterious, and return again changed by where we have been. We feel the firmness of the ground beneath our feet and celebrate the stability of place. But our blessing and our curse is our longing to fly once again.

Life changes us all, whether in love or travel or rolling the dice on a career path. Our lives are the arches we build between where we launch from and where we land. But landing someplace doesn’t mean you can’t launch yourself somewhere else, again and again, to see what kind of cathedral you can build for yourself. Who said we are only allowed to fly once?

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Arches don’t just float in mid-air. You’ve got to build that foundation to properly launch yourself into the abyss if you want to land on solid ground on the other side (let alone return again). It goes without saying that proper financial and logistical planning are necessary if your arch is to cross a big chasm. But small arches are beautiful too, and don’t require more than a bit of courage to fly.

Assuming we live to be 80, we’ve all burned 2 1/2% of our lives with COVID. How have we spent that time? Hopefully not locked in fear in our homes, but instead getting vaccinated and finding adventure where we may, while we can. If not then, why not now? How far will your next arch span? Where will you land? If you dare?

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