Making Way

Wayfarer, the only way
is your footsteps, there is no other.
Wayfarer, there is no way,
you make the way by walking.
As you go, you make the way,
and stopping to look behind
you see the path that your feet
will never travel again.
Wayfarer, there is no way
Only foam trails on the sea.
                                  ~ Proverbios y cantares XXIX ~ Antonio Machado (trans. Alan S. Trueblood)

Comments always are welcome.


38 thoughts on “Making Way

    1. I’m sure Machado would be pleased to find his work circulating in this quite different world. In fact, he all but said so in XXXIV:

      If a poem becomes common,
      passed around, hand to hand, it’s acceptable:
      gold is chosen for coins.

  1. It’s a cool photo, and a nice “pairing” with the poetry. Is it a jet contrail, or from a rocket? I guess some people’s path is like drifting clouds, and other people’s, is like a jet stream.

    1. Even though there are plans (or hopes) for a space launch facility down the coast, we don’t have rockets yet, so that’s out. The clouds were low enough that I would have heard any aircraft that disturbed them; even the F-16s that fly invisibly high are easily heard on the ground.

      Personally, I favor a third, if possibly fanciful option. I suspect geese. They’re thick right now, and flying fast and high in tight formations. Though we’ll never know, I like to think of them making way through the clouds, leaving only this trail as evidence.

    1. It might be that you saw a phenomenon known as a fallstreak cloud They’re not particularly common, but I don’t think they’re considered rare, either. Building summer thunderstorms are marvelous, but winter clouds have a lot to offer; I’m glad you got to see a special one.

    1. Isn’t the trail interesting? At first, I saw it as a spine. Then, it reminded me of the kind of path a kayak or canoe can create when moving through vegetation. But then I remembered Machado’s poem, and the pairing seemed perfect. I hope you’re enjoying such pretty skies!

    1. I might have missed it, Debbie, because the clouds were straight overhead. I’d been photographing a stand of trees when the light suddenly changed, and when I looked up, there were all those cute little clouds with a streak running down the middle of them. I wasn’t sure what it would look like as a photo, but I certainly was glad I spent some time trying to capture the effect.

  2. What an excellent cloud abstraction. At first one could easily think it’s a mirror image. A second look reveals that it’s not.

    The Machado is a famous poem. Here it is in Spanish, in case you’d like to compare:

    Caminante, son tus huellas
    el camino y nada más;
    Caminante, no hay camino,
    se hace camino al andar.
    Al andar se hace el camino,
    y al volver la vista atrás
    se ve la senda que nunca
    se ha de volver a pisar.
    Caminante no hay camino
    sino estelas en la mar.

    The Spanish word estela, translated in the last line as a ‘foam trail’ on the sea, also means the ‘vapor trail’ of an airplane, which is appropriate for your photograph.

    1. I was happy with the photo: not least because I was playing with my new polarizing filter for the first time. It was great fun to see some of what it can do — and how easy it can be to overdo things.

      I found several translations of that last line, and they differed a good bit. One read “only a ship’s wake on the sea.” I couldn’t find any ship in the poem, so I moved on.

      Finally, I narrowed it down to Trueblood’s translation, and that of Robert Bly, who chose to render the line, “only wakes in the sea.” My sense that Trueblood’s interpretation was closer got reinforced when I found this comparison of the two men’s work in the New York Times archives. Translation fascinates me anyway, and I thought this was especially interesting:

      “Of the two translations, one is by the recognized poet and translator Robert Bly, the other by a professor of Spanish at Brown University, Alan S. Trueblood.

      One might expect the poet to get closer than the professor to the heart of things, and that initial prejudice is seemingly confirmed. Mr. Bly’s choice of poems is more selective; Mr. Trueblood’s is more encompassing and includes longer poems. Mr. Bly’s comments give us illuminating intuitions, whereas Mr. Trueblood’s volume contains a ponderous 68-page introduction with extensive footnotes.

      When you get to the translations, however, Mr. Trueblood wins hands down, and there are solid reasons for the triumph. It is a matter of two people looking at the poetry, one from inside the secrets of Spanish, the other from outside.”

      That dual meaning of estela is amazing. It seems I picked a better poem for the photo than I knew.

    1. I’ve always kept this poem close at hand. When I read it, I think of everything from deer trails to hiking trails to nights offshore with phosphorescence trailing behind the boat. I like it for what it says about our life trails, too. I was amazed by those clouds. They were directly overhead, and I wouldn’t have noticed them if the light hadn’t changed and made me look up to see what was happening.

  3. Great picture! Jet contrail or natural phenomenon? No paths in the air, or in the sea. No way to leave footprints. Nothing to mark your passage.

    1. Since it already was there when I spotted it, I really don’t have a clue. I’ve decided it’s natural, simply because the clouds that had developed were fairly low– much lower than any contrail would be.If there had been another sort of plane around, I would have heard it, since I was in the middle of nowhere with no traffic, no wind, and so on. There were, however, geese on the wing. Perhaps what we’re seeing are bird trails.

      Whatever the explanation, I love the image. It reminds me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s cloud paintings.

  4. Another remarkable find. The photo is grand, at least to me, it is. And not only are you capable of seeing in every direction like an owl as you go about with your camera, but you have the ability to research like an intelligence agent.

    1. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, Yvonne, and I’ll join you in thinking it quite grand. I suppose there’s a reasonable explanation for the clouds’ appearance, but I’m perfectly satisfied enjoying the photo without needed to speculate about the cause.

      I love that owl reference. Looking up, down, and around certainly is key to spotting things like this. There’s quite a difference between thinking, “Today, I want to find [X],” and thinking, “I’m going to go out and see what I can see.” In terms that the computer’s made familiar, there’s a difference between searching and browsing, and knowing when to search and when to browse is important.

    1. I’d not thought of the poem as being appropriate for the season: that’s an interesting association. Now that I think of it, it would do quite well for the new year, when so many are evaluating the past and trying to shape their futures. There no doubt will be some surprises for us in 2019. Let’s hope they’re pleasant ones.

    1. I’ve been thinking about it, and it seems to me that nature’s always a little ‘irregular.’ There are things in the world that are perfectly symmetrical, unblemished, and uniform, but they belong to the realm of the manufactured, not the created. Now and then I get a customer who wants every bit of wood on his boat to have perfectly matching grain and color. I always suggest plastic.

    1. Now, that’s a nice thought — being tapped on the shoulder by an angel. I do wonder from time to time what it is that makes me suddenly slam on the brakes while thinking, “Stop here and look!” An angel’s as good an explanation as any, and I’m getting better at stopping. As for the poem, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it resonates for you.

  5. The poem was made into a song performed by Joan Manuel Serrat in the mid 1960’s from Spain. It was titled ‘Cantares’, but Serrat recorded a whole LP album on Machado’s poems, obviously called: ‘Dedicado a Antonio Machado’, I was just a kid. I only really liked two or three songs from that album. The album was a hit in all Spanish speaking countries. Here’s a video of Serrat in the 1960’s:

    1. I did enjoy the video you linked, and I especially liked the last stanza:

      Cuando el jilguero no puede cantar
      Cuando el poeta es un peregrino
      Cuando de nada nos sirve rezar
      «caminante no hay camino
      Se hace camino al andar»
      Golpe a golpe, verso a verso.

      I like the thought of Machado’s poetry being popularized in this way, too — although from what I’ve read about his importance to Spanish cultures and literature, his poetry didn’t need to be set to song to be popular.

      1. The audio was not too good though. You’re right. Joan Manuel Serrat simply used it at a peak moment of his career. I think that he didn’t necessarily need the Machado album to climb to fame, but it may have added candor to his singing style I suppose.

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