Updated: Apr 3, 2020
On a frozen pond a mile north of Liberal
almost sixty years ago I skated wild circles
while a strange pale sun went down.
A scattering of dry brown reeds cluttered
the ice at one end of the pond, and a fitful
breeze ghosted little surface eddies of snow.
No house was in sight, no tree, only
the arched wide surface of the earth
holding the pond and me under the sky.
I would go home, confront all my years, the tangled
events to come, and never know more than I did
that evening waving my arms in the lemon-colored light.
-William Stafford from "The Way It Is:
New & Selected Poems" (1977).
William Stafford (RIP 1914-1993) is one of my favorite poets as he writes of the world I know of the Great Plains of the United States, and writes with such precise detailed observation of the continuity of his inner life and the world around him. Almost anyone who grew up outside of a major city in the Great Plains (or many other places) can recognize the setting for this poem. But Stafford reflects on how innocence and connection to the life of a particular place and time may be the height of human knowledge and experience. He speaks of a bonding of our awareness and our senses into oneness as the elusive enlightenment we all seek though our complicated "tangled" lives. Stafford found this solidity of life as a child in western Kansas alone on a frozen pond at sunset. I can relate. I have felt this in a winter darkened and empty cotton field under a bright milky-way and alone on a secluded mountain peak in mid summer with views of higher peaks and snow in one direction and of green valleys in another. The world just fit together and made sense and I knew almost complete peace in such natural moments from my youth.