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Posts tagged ‘Walt Whitman’

Poetry ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay ~              

Savage Beauty

poetess Millay

About poetry I can be very brief, and atypically, I will be in this post.

I know very little about it and it will likely be that way for the rest of my life.  However, I was once completely smitten by the memory of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  In 1996, on the Microsoft Bookshelf CD with quotations, she grabbed my attention with a poem that was quoted in a few movies (such as A river runs through it).

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

It was apparently short enough to make me read it, I’d burned the candle at both ends myself many times, and when someone told me she was known as a cheeky poetess, I wanted to know more.


So my journey began.  I read a lot of her poetry, first online and later in books.  Especially the biography Savage Beauty cast a spell on me.  I was in love, in lust, with a long deceased person.  I visited Camden, Maine, Poughkeepsie, New York, and last, Steepletop (her farm) in New York and that’s where the spell was broken.  Poof! in one go, she released me.  She apparently had this effect on both men and women when she was alive, and undoubtedly let them go at the drop of a hat also.  The biographer did a really good job!


Sometimes, oh, often, indeed, in the midst of ugly adversity, beautiful
Memories return.
You awake in wonder, you awake at half-past four,
Wondering what wonder is in store.
You reach for your clothes in the dark and pull them on, you
have no time
Even to wash your face, you have to climb Megunticook.

You run through the sleeping town; you do not arouse
Even a dog, you are so young and so light on your feet.
What a way to live, what a way…
No breakfast, not even hungry. An apple, though,
In the pocket.
And the only people you meet are store-windows.

The path up the mountain is stony and in places steep,
And here it is really dark — wonderful, wonderful,
Wonderful — the smell of bark
And rotten leaves and dew! And nobody awake
In all the world but you! —
Who lie on a high cliff until your elbow ache,
To see the sun come up over Penobscot Bay.

Only two

There are only two poets that have wooed me.  Millay is one and Whitman is the other (click on the first image of the Camino plaque – Song of the Open Road).


Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Pilgrimage, Pèlerinage, Pelgrimstocht (I)

Who has not heard of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela?

Not many.  Late nineties, an artist friend in South Africa said she had rented a house near the Camino where she produced a range of paintings.  I seem to remember that she lived on bread and olives.  Also that I felt the urge to walk the Camino ‘where monks feed you for free.’  I didn’t get around to it (and as for the last bit, was that really true anyway?).

In Quebec I met a man of 67 who had walked the Camino from France all the way to Santiago.  Again, I wished that I could too.

As they say, ‘be careful what you wish for, it might just happen.’

Isn’t that some kind of curse?

In 2009 I fell in love with a picture of San Vicente de la Barquera.

I thought to myself, if ever I go to Spain, that’s the place I want to see.  That was as soon as 2010.  And not just did I ‘see’ it, I went to do a ‘recce’, i.e. I checked it out to see if I wanted to live there, and I rather liked it.  Three months later I arrived in Spain with the intention to stay.  Phew, if everything was that easy!

But that’s where the ease stopped.  After that, my life became complicated and traumatic and seven months later I left Spain, for good.

But I did walk the Camino!  You see, I lived right at it.

And as I have a dog who travelled with me, she and I walked the Camino every day.  We probably qualify for a 100 km certificate, but I never applied for it.  😉

Right there, on the Camino, my dog was bitten by a loose dog from the village.  And later, two of my cats suffered the same fate (three big holes, two fractures & 300 Euros).

It was the last straw in a string of Jean de Florette-like encounters in which I felt like Gérard Depardieu.  Except that the villagers didn’t get me down (although it was close).  The youtube link to this movie was removed, alas).

Lesson learnt: Living in northern Spain doesn’t compare to visiting or walking the Camino.

As for the Camino, my advice is to take the northern route, which is breathtakingly beautiful.  Blow a kiss to San Vicente for me.  The peregrino albergue is right next to the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.

You can’t miss it.


Nov. 15: Found this remarkable PDF file of an extensive printed folder about the Camino.  You won’t believe your eyes!

Excellent info on Santiago on this Hitch-Hikers’ Handbook

How should I choose my Camino de Santiago Starting Point?


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