A Uniform Hieroglyphic

Yesterday the kids and I took a hike through Monsey Glen. We found lots of “scope for the imagination” as Anne Shirley would have it: many sandstone overhangs and caves, some of which were occupied by Native Americans over the last 3,000 years; oddly shaped rhododendron groves; lots of gnome king palaces in oak stumps and trunks; and mossy pillows in abundance. Aside from the sadly littered creek bed, this small park was really magical.

As I was thinking about posting some of the pictures from our walk, I recalled that one of my favorite poems, “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman, has been poking me in the back of my brain lately. So I read it over once again, and was inspired to accompany the photos with some excerpts:

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed.

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

Walking the path worn in the grass and beat through the leaves of the brush,
Where the quail is whistling betwixt the woods and the wheat-lot,
Where the bat flies in the Seventh-month eve, where the great goldbug drops through the dark,
Where the brook puts out of the roots of the old tree and flows to the meadow…



Filed under Deep Thoughts, Nature, Poetry

6 responses to “A Uniform Hieroglyphic

  1. Beautiful! Walt Whitman was a constant companion to my travels when I was 18/19 yo and always timeless. It is nice to see the wonders of nature through the eyes of a child. There was a glen I used to walk in when Amelia was younger and there were special places where I would stop and tell stories to Amelia. “Mermaid Cove, Fairy Glenn, Crying Indian Rock, Gnome Caves, Singing Falls…” She made the names of the places and I would tell their story. I was just thinking about this the other day and the photos of your children reminded me of this again 🙂

    Anne Shirley is also a bosom friend.

  2. I enjoyed reading Whitman with these gorgeous pictures. In fact, I think I should just go to bed now and have sweet dreams with these thoughts and images in my head. My family went hiking yesterday as well, although in a very different type of landscape.

  3. Must dig out Leaves of Grass! And would you recommend Stardust? (glancing to the right of the comment box)

  4. URD: Yes, I recommend it, though it’s much less substantial than American Gods, for example. More like a beautiful but light story. A fairy tale, really.

  5. Eve

    Ah, Whitman. This was quite well done, the poem and the photos.

    I’ve just re-read Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” and all that naturalism underscores what Whitman wrote from a poet’s perspective, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars…”

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