ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Linda Pastan's "Traveling Light"

Updated on April 20, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Linda Pastan

Source

Introduction and Text of "Traveling Light"

Linda Pastan's "Traveling Light" offers a brief glimpse into the tumultuous conflict of emotions a person feels when having to travel from home and leaving a loved one, even for just "a handful of days."

Traveling Light

I’m only leaving you
for a handful of days,
but it feels as though
I’ll be gone forever—
the way the door closes

behind me with such solidity,
the way my suitcase
carries everything
I’d need for an eternity
of traveling light.

I’ve left my hotel number
on your desk, instructions
about the dog
and heating dinner. But
like the weather front

they warn is on its way
with its switchblades
of wind and ice,
our lives have minds
of their own.

Commentary

The speaker in Linda Pastan's poem, "Traveling Light," uses preparation for a short journey to dramatize the guesswork involved in prediction.

First Cinquain: Traveling from Home

I’m only leaving you
for a handful of days,
but it feels as though
I’ll be gone forever—
the way the door closes

The speaker addresses her loved one who will remain at home while she takes a short trip; she tells him that although she is going away for only a few days, it seems as if she will be gone forever. She then begins a brief explanation for the feeling, which reaches its conclusion in the next cinquain.

Second Cinquain: Double Meaning

behind me with such solidity,
the way my suitcase
carries everything
I’d need for an eternity
of traveling light.

Two things make the speaker feel as though this trip might last longer than she plans: the way the door closes // behind me with such solidity and the way her suitcase has been packed to take absolutely everything she needs for short trip, which she calls traveling light. The phrase "traveling light" deserves some special attention here because it evokes two meanings. First, it means not packing many items, keeping the suitcase relatively light. But it also implies the act of light, as in sunlight, that is moving. If light is moving, to where does it move and from where?

Of course, light does not actually travel. Light is the basic unit of matter that gives birth to all creation. The speaker says that her suitcase contains everything she needs "for an eternity / of traveling light." The conflict of an eternity of traveling light vs. an eternity of light traveling becomes a conundrum of universality that gives the poems its depth of meaning. The speaker's plan is to be away for a specified short period, and she has packed accordingly. But being gone for only a few days cannot be understood as an eternity, except in the realm of uncertain consequences, which the speaker will address in the fourth cinquain.

Third Cinquain: Intention and Eternity

I’ve left my hotel number
on your desk, instructions
about the dog
and heating dinner. But
like the weather front

Breaking from her dip into profundity about intention and eternity, the speaker inserts the mundane details of leaving her hotel's phone number and household instructions on her loved one's desk.

As she did between the first cinquain and second cinquains, she begins her thought in the third but waits to finish it in the fourth. Both such breaks indicate that a universal musing will be forthcoming.

Fourth Cinquain: The Efficacy of Prediction

they warn is on its way
with its switchblades
of wind and ice,
our lives have minds
of their own.

The speaker then caps her predictions and stickling for household details by likening her actions to the predictions of a weatherman. Despite weather tracking, the weather seems to have a mind of its own, and the speaker avers that like that weather, "our lives have minds / of their own."

She cannot control whether her journey will be short or not, even though her plans are for such—in fact, she knows that she may not return at all, and she cannot keep her household running by leaving instructions on the desk of her beloved, even though she strives to do so.

The speaker's awareness of the multiple possibilities for the ways lives turn out informs the universal nature of the poem. Instead of remaining merely a poetic comment on leaving for a short trip, the poem makes a profound statement about life's every tentative moment.

Linda Pastan reading three poems at the 2006 Dodge Poetry Festival

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    17 months ago from U.S.A.

    Yes, Mark. Linda Pastan's works exemplify fine pieces of craftsmanship. She has been considered a "national treasure." The American poetry world is certainly richer for her participation.

    Thanks for the comment, and have a blessed day!

  • Mark Tulin profile image

    Mark Tulin 

    17 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

    Love this poem as well the commentary.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)