To begin our new life as a literary/arts zine, I’m publishing a poem I wrote several years ago when I had to leave a little house I had loved more than almost any other dwelling-place. It sat by the side of a “pond,” (Curtis Pond in Maple Corner, Calais, VT). In Vermont a pond can be another name for a small lake as well as an actual pond.
That little ranch-style house was special, with a magic almost everyone who ever stayed there felt. It had a beautiful Norwegian-style hand- painted bed with rabbits and lambs on it. The house was so close to the grass and water and frogs groaning at night that I often felt as though I were living on a houseboat in the water itself. The wind would come up and blow around the little yellow house, which I called The House of Dreams. Now it is gone, torn down; a big, lovely, expensive house has been built on the same land but not by the water. This house was deeply loved by the wife of the man who built much of it, too, who owned it before me. It had a special magic. And so, invited to the pond by a friend named Trudy (the Lady of the Lake,) I lived in this loved house whenever it was not rented out for fifteen years. It does not negate my love for Quarry Hill that I loved the House of Dreams so much. Or my love for our little cabin in Florida, which I hope to see again one day. But how lovely it was and what peace I had there, like Yeats with his nine bean rows.
Leaving Curtis Pond
The starry floor, the watery shore
Are given thee till break of day.
— William Blake
There is no farewell to these unending waters,
Or to these white lilies like candles in starlight
Invisibly closed in invisible evening.
Nymphea speak never of loss or of sorrow,
though sunlight has fled from both petal and stamen,
At least, not in any sad tongue that I know of.
I moor my canoe at the sun-colored cottage
where bullfrogs call deep as the full moon arises:
I spend one more night in the house of rejoicing,
Spend one last night with the wind and the water.
Here have I written, have loved and have listened
To the birds, to the rain, to the voices of children
Who call as they swim at the pine-sheltered inlet.
Winter shall part me no more from their laughter.
After these years by the wind and the water
The time comes to leave here. Yet, what is departure?
All things are impermanent: so says Siddhartha.
Formless is form, form returns to the formless.
Once more to the dock. Here the full moon’s reflected
In looking-glass water, where sunlit clouds questioned:
“Which is real, which reflection? This earth or its vision?”
Here is the answer, o clouds on the water,
So many years later, and so many partings.
I am at one with the wind and the water.
Here is the heart of the heart of all being.
I say no farewell to the lake, to the joyous.
Like shadows that fade as the full moon arises,
All parting is form changing into the formless.
Benedictus, o wind in the trees on the shoreline,
Light that flows over the reed and the flower.
Grant unto those who come after me, vision.
Let them have passion and joy for their hour:
Small scarlet boat in its half-hidden mooring,
Crimson-jeweled dragonflies, rose-tinted light,
Red leaves of October in graceful reflection,
And unto all lovers, sweet sensuous delight.
The Lady of the Lake lived long upon the shore.
She held each changing season in embrace,
And to the pilgrim generous was and kind.
She guided me in goodness to this place,
The sweetest home of all my many dreams.
Deep in the looking-glass of heart and mind
The gazing eye’s one with the gazed upon.
There may the essence of her thought convene
With you, new-dweller on the singing pond.
And if you will, to others lend this peace:
May wonder and compassion never cease.
Now in this house of dreams, your own dreams spin
Who after me shall seek the water and the wind.
Nor death nor time, nor this last parting, changes
The joy in life I found here. Naught estranges.
–Isabella Fiske McFarlin
Feb.- June 2004
Rochester and Maple Corner, Calais, VT.
Copyright Isabella Fiske McFarlin