October 31, 2014
by William Stafford, from Crossing Unmarked Snow
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate as made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
Stafford offers some thoughts on the making of this poem, one of those he calls “accepting what comes.” He says, “We are surrounded by mystery, tremendous things that do not reveal themselves to us. That river, that world — and our lives — all share the depth and stillness of much more significance than our task, or intentions. There is a steadiness and somehow a solace in knowing that what is around us so greatly surpasses our human concerns.”
I do find solace in Stafford’s poem and in my unknowing. Why am I here? What does my life mean? I do not know, perhaps cannot know. But I accept with gratitude that I am still here trying to figure it out!