»The Well of Darkness«
In times of ever-increasing uncertainty, it is good to look for treasures that people of other times and circumstances left behind and make available to us. Therefore let us go to the »pond«, as the wise Celts said. Let us look for stories, poems, music that speak to us today.
Pablo Neruda received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 for his extraordinary poetry. I came across a small, almost inconspicuous poem a few days ago:
If each day falls
inside each night,
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.
We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience. Pablo Neruda
How apparently light but incredibly deep Neruda plays with contrasts here: day is followed by night, before the dark of the well he names the brightness and, framing the whole thing, he talks about sinking at the beginning and about fishing toward to the end. Fishing requires patience, the simple sitting there, the »crouching«. The place for this is the edge of the well, the » the rim of the well of darkness« - not a seashore, not a river, but a well. Nothing gets lost in a well; it preserves what falls into it from above. So the light of the day also sinks down, but it is not lost. It takes passion and perseverance to bring it back up.
In the Bible, life-changing encounters take place at wells, such as the bridal search of Rebekah for Isaac or Jacob's first encounter with Leah in the Book of Genesis.
In Ireland we can still visit holy wells today. They are inconspicuous, often difficult to find, but for hundreds of years they have been revered as »thin places«, where the visible and invisible world meet and where people pray for salvation.
In his story of the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, John Shea writes: »Anything can happen at a well.«
Why not at the edge of the well within us?
Let us crouch there again and again with passion and fish with patience for that which has sunk into our depths.
Vallendar, October 22nd, 2020