DEPARTURE: The Ordinary World
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats
The Ordinary World
The journey that confers hero-ness upon us begins in an ordinary way, on an ordinary day, in what we thought was an ordinary world. This first stage is more of a preface. In a movie, it might even be rendered in the opening credits. Here you are, on a not-very-special Friday.
Everything is about to change.
You will look back on this moment as the Departure from all you knew.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
This ordinariness is where most poems begin — not in the head, not even in the heart, but in an image. William Butler Yeats describes an ordinary lake isle that, as soon as you read it, is unforgettable. You can hear the honey bees. You can smell the dust in the clay cabin. You never knew that noon glows purple, but now you can’t unsee this image.
I discovered this poem when a friend memorized it before her daughter had surgery, and she invited her friends to memorize it along with her, in solidarity. Yeats’ lake isle was a distraction from a situation that felt very unordinary.
A few years later I used the poem in a similar way, to ground me during a difficult trip, full of difficult conversations. Was it a hard evening? Yes, one full of the “linnet’s wings.”
Be a Hero
You might as well begin your journey with an ordinary walk. What do you see? Hear? Smell? What does the weather feel like? When you get home, what drink do you fix yourself? (I fill my big Yeti with heavily citrused, ice-cold water and drink it all.)
While you’re sipping, read Yeats’ poem aloud. Do this every day for the next week and see if some of the phrases slip inside your “deep heart’s core.”
What does it say to you, for your hero’s journey? If you like, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Try to learn a little of this poem by heart.
What does it say about your hero’s journey?
If you like, email me at email@example.com.
I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro