I was a young man away in the great flat state of Indiana, missing my home in the forested Pennsylvania hills and ridges, feeling alone without my new wife those first three months beginning my seminary studies, when I first encountered the poetry of that wise old sage William Stafford. Yes, I did say seminary studies, but that was a long time ago, another life. Funny, it was his Taoist-like connection to nature, and the easy flow of time, his simple insights into human thought that nourished my soul far more than anything I was studying in theology. Friends of mine didn’t understand, but it’s no wonder I eventually changed my studies to English, literature and teaching.
He has sometimes been called a colloquial poet, but his book An Oregon Message, now tattered and stained was this Pennsylvania boy’s salvation, along with a couple of books about Hawk Mountain that I’ll tell you about in a future post. For now, here is a favorite poem that transports me back from that volume called “Little Rooms.”
by William Stafford
I rock high in the oak–secure, big branches–
at home while darkness comes. It gets lonely up here
as lights needle forth below, through airy space.
Tinkling dishwashing noises drift up, and a faint
smooth gush of air through leaves, cool evening
moving out over the earth. Our town leans farther
away, and I ride through the arch toward midnight,
holding on, listening, hearing deep roots grow.
There are rooms in a life, apart from others, rich
with whatever happens, a glimpse of moon, a breeze.
You who come years from now to this brief spell
of nothing that was mine: the open, slow passing
of time was a gift going by. I have put my hand out
on the mane of the wind, like this, to give it to you.
© 1987 by William Stafford, An Oregon Message, Harper and Row, NY