And I think over again,
my small adventures,
when with a shore wind I drifted out
in my canoe,
and thought I was in danger--
those I thought so big,
for all the vital things
I had to get to and reach.
And yet, there is only one thing,
one great thing--
to live to see in huts and on journeys
the great day that dawns,
and the light that fills the world.
* * *
This is an Inuit poem, which I first read yesterday, on the back of a memorial card for the Passamaquoddy canoe maker David Moses Bridges, who died of cancer on inauguration day. My dear friends Angela and Steve were also his dear friends; Steve, in fact, was his teacher--the person who helped Moses bring canoe making back to the Passamaquoddy people. So he and I shared the same orbit, aware of one another though not intersecting much.
I did not know until yesterday how much he loved poetry. The poem above is not an exact translation: Moses changed bits of it to suit himself . . . adding the canoe line, for instance, which as my son Paul pointed out, must have been a kayak in the original version.
I showed the poem to Paul because he, too, shares a deep devotion to the river-wild. I offer it to you because it cuts to the heart of our human terrors and desires . . . and the knowledge that comes upon us, only occasionally, of the "only one thing, / one great thing." Let us try to hold it in our hearts.