I recently asked my colleague Priya Chhaya to open a retreat with a reflection on changing perspectives. We were discussing a familiar theme, the future of the American city, in an unexpected place—in this particular case, under the night sky in the American west. For one of the readings, she chose the Sylvia Plath poem Stars Over Dordogne, calling out the second verse in particular:
“Where I am at home, only the sparsest stars
Arrive at twilight, and then after some effort.
And they are wan, dulled by much travelling.
The smaller and more timid never arrive at all
But stay, sitting far out, in their own dust.
They are orphans. I cannot see them. They are lost.
But tonight they have discovered this river with no trouble,
They are scrubbed and self-assured as the great planets.”
Priya noted that when in a city, which is home for many of us, you often only see what is right in front of you: the buildings, the roads, the cars, the noise, the obvious density. But a change in place can clear our minds to think beyond what is immediately in our line of sight to things that exist but which can be difficult to comprehend. Our perspective is changed.
Plath takes a similar line of thought in ending Stars Over Dordogne:
“And what if the sky here is no different.
And it is my eyes that have been sharpening themselves?”
August is a time when many of us head off for summer vacations. If that fits with your plans, think about how a change in place can bring a change in perspective.
Have a good week.
More to come…