The summer of 2004, I backpacked through Eastern Europe, alone, for three weeks. I learned a lot about myself — especially that living and writing, for me, are intertwined.
I wrote this in my journal, after leaving the “Hungarian Sea,” or Lake Balaton, where I saw a swan:
In Balatonfured, when I had the experience of the swan, I simultaneously dove into the white solitude while hovering outside the picture. This is what I mean by the difference between the thing itself and the story of the thing. She was exquisite: floating on calm Balaton, alone, in the dark, against a backdrop of heat lightning. I have gendered her. Yeats had his wild swans at Coole and I have mine. She too was traveling alone, and with the sky aflame, I swear I was summoning her — that for a brief moment we spoke a common telepathic language, even as I withdrew to write and hence change her…
The Wild Swans at Coole
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty Swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away.