“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent upon a peak in Darien.”
-- John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
I’m always hoping to more often feel what “stout Cortez” and his men felt on that “peak in Darien”. Keats pictures them standing on a hill above the Pacific Ocean, staggered by the scene, and I would like to foster more of that kind of bewilderment and wonder in my life. Cortez and his men saw a startling sight, and every day – every moment – I am witness to scenes which, in their own special ways, should be almost as amazing. Hard as it is to remember during the sometimes wearisome routines of the day, the various circumstances that arise around me are as unique and mystifying as an indescribable ocean, and really, the only suitable response to them should be honest amazement. My small seacoast town is my “Darien”, and wherever I happen to be is the “peak” where I can look “with a wild surmise” at the picturesque inscrutability of life. A “surmise” is a guess, a supposition, a hunch, and that’s honestly all I have when it comes to understanding the things I see and experience. In the end, they’re all complete conundrums to me. If you ask me to make clear the mystery of even the simplest circumstance – the look of lamplight on a table, the sound of a car coming past the house, the whole sky shining at 7:00 a.m. -- all I could do is make a hit-or-miss guess, a “wild surmise”. A better response might be to just stay respectfully silent, like the astonished explorer and his men.