"Life While-You-Wait" on a Playa in Death Valley

"Life While-You-Wait" on a Playa in Death Valley
Bonnie Claire Playa, Death Valley - Copyright Kris Vockler

Bonnie Claire Playa, Death Valley - Copyright Kris Vockler

Many years ago I came across the work of Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska. I'm not a huge poetry fan but her work always stuck me as to the point. The photo above is from Bonnie Claire Playa in Death Valley. Death Valley, or any wide open space, is a place where one's existence on earth seems to always come into question. What does it all mean and why are we here? On this Sunday I leave you with a favorite poem by Szymborska on what she feels it means to stumble through this life we have here on earth.


Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run —
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.