Sometimes it is easy for us to see where we are getting stuck in our own perspectives, our “stories ” and patterns of habit. At other times it is much, much harder. We often don’t understand that we aren’t actually seeing “the truth and nuthin’ but the truth”, until someone else points it out to us.
As a way to gain new perspectives, I recently took up the habit of reading 2-3 poems by David Wagoner each morning while I have my daily coffee. (I picked his work because he writes a lot about being outside in the woods and in mountains and that appeals to me at a really deep level- you could choose if you did so, to read something from an author who you connect with deeply- at your core).
So this morning I read this poem and when I got to end I had to laugh out loud… loud enough for my dog to raise her head and wonder what the heck all the fuss was about…
The fuss was because I understood, I connected with, and I KNEW the feeling that Thor had felt as he was slinking back to his home feeling every inch of the defeat he imagined. And I was laughing because David Wagoner, in his twist of en ending, drew back the curtain on Thor’s belief…. Showing it for what it really was……. It was only his perception about what had occurred… It wasn’t THE TRUTH.
In fact……. as Wagoner tells the story…. we come to see that there isn’t any individual truth, that it all depends on who is looking at the events and what they decide to make of it.
So this is a small gift to you to take a step back, and see where you might be able to find the grift or perspective in something today, for yourself.
Sometimes it takes a willingness to look out over the whole landscape to see the actual lay of the land.
Photo by Amy Kosh
The Labors Of Thor – David Wagoner
Stiff as the icicles in their beards, the Ice Kings
Sat in the great cold hall and stared at Thor
Who had lumbered this far north to stagger them
With his gifts, which (back at home) seemed scarcely human.
“Immodesty forbids,” his sideman Loki
Proclaimed throughout the preliminary bragging,
And reeled off Thor’s accomplishments, fit for Sagas
Or a seat on the bench of the gods. With a sliver of beard
An Ice King picked his teeth: “Is he a drinker?”
And Loki boasted of challengers laid out
As cold as pickled herring. The Ice King offered
A horn-cup, long as a harp’s neck, full of mead.
Thor braced himself for elbow and belly room
And tipped the cup and drank as deep as mackerel,
Then deeper, reaching down for the halibut
Till his broad belt buckled. He had quaffed one inch.
“Maybe he’s better at something else,” an Ice King
Muttered, yawning. Remembering the boulders
He’d seen Thor heave and toss in the pitch of anger,
Loki proposed a bout of lifting weights.
“You men have been humping rocks from here to there
For ages,” an Ice King said. “They cut no ice.
Lift something harder.” And he whistled out
A gray-green cat with cold, mouse-holey eyes.
Thor gave it a pat, then thrust both heavy hands
Under it, stooped and heisted, heisted again,
Turned red in the face and bit his lip and heisted
From the bottom of his heart—and lifted one limp forepaw.
Now pink in the face himself, Loki said quickly
That heroes can have bad days, like bards and beggars,
But Thor of all mortals was the grossest wrestler
And would stake his demigodhood on one fall.
Seeming too bored to bother, an Ice King waved
His chilly fingers around the mead-hall, saying,
“Does anyone need some trifling exercise
Before we go glacier-calving in the morning?”
An old crone hobbled in, four-faced and gamy,
As bent in the back as any bitch of burden,
As gray as water, as feeble as an oyster.
An Ice King said, “She’s thrown some boys in her time.”
Thor would have left, insulted, but Loki whispered,
“When the word gets south, she’ll be at least an ogress.”
Thor reached out sullenly and grabbed her elbow,
But she quicksilvered him and grinned her gums.
Thor tried his patented hammerlock takedown,
But she melted away like steam from a leaky sauna.
He tried a whole Nelson; it shrank to half, to a quarter,
Then nothing. He stood there, panting at the ceiling,
“Who got me into this demigoddiness?”
As flashy as lightning, the woman belted him
With her bony fist and boomed him to one knee,
But fell to a knee herself, and pale as moonlight.
Bawling for shame, Thor left by the back door,
Refusing to be consoled by Loki’s plans
For a quick revision the Northodox Version
Of the evening’s deeds, including Thor’s translation
From vulnerable flesh and sinew into a dish
Fit for the gods and a full apotheosis
With catches and special effects by the sharpest gleemen
Available in an otherwise flat season.
He went back south, tasting his bitter lesson,
Moment by moment, for the rest of his life,
Believing himself a pushover faking greatness
Along a tawdry strain of misadventures.
Meanwhile, the Ice Kings trembled in their chairs
But not from the cold–they’d seen a man hoist high
The Great Horn-Cup that ends deep in the ocean
And lower all Seven Seas by his own stature;
They’d seen him budge the Cat of the World and heft
The pillar on one paw, the whole north corner;
They’d seen a mere man wrestle with Death herself
And match her knee for knee, grunting like thunder.
–David Wagoner, Collected Poems, 1956-76 University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago 1999.