“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” – Walt Whitman
You can’t really read poetry and not encounter the words of Walt Whitman. The quote above is from his poem, Song of the Open Road. It is (as befits the title) long and rather rambling, filled with colorful metaphors and insights into the steep hills and jagged potholes of the human condition.
Like him or not, find him a bit tedious or not, Whitman was and still is an icon of American poetry. Reading the line above, I realized at some point over a century ago, he felt the same way in his life as I do in mine.
To me, that is one of the great gifts of art, of writing and poetry. It connects me across the years, sometimes even millennia, to others and helps me understand that, in many ways, people in other cultures, living in other times, weren’t really that different from me after all.
That they knew, too, it’s not the things I have that define me, make me a good or bad person. I think the secret Whitman describes is about trying to live in harmony with the world and other people, even if that’s not always comfortable or acceptable. I think it’s about remembering, even in the worst of times, that I am still a part of all the earth, connected to the lives of everyone and everything around me.
That is what deepens me, I think, makes me stronger. Some people see mostly anger and fear in the world. And yes, I accept that there is always that to contend with. But I don’t choose to live by those qualities alone. There is equally as much beauty and joy in even the smallest things, sometimes more.
I nurture my feelings of connection more than my feelings of fear. I believe I know my place in the vast scheme of things. And I try to remember each night I am going to sleep with the earth beneath me, and with the night sky somewhere beyond my rooftop above.