Monday, May 15, 2017

#SOL17 Advice from Walt


On Saturday, I took part in a Writing Marathon at Walt Whitman's Birthplace as part of the Long Island Writing Project's Saturday Series of workshops. (That's Walt looking rather proudly over my shoulder.) I've been a Long Islander all my life and shopped numerous times at the Walt Whitman Mall but never visited his birthplace before. The weather was gray, chilly and rainy, but May meant there was still greenery everywhere as I explored the house where Walt Whitman lived until he was four years old. 

During one part of the Writing Marathon, I came upon the opening to Leaves of Grass, entitled "This Is What You Shall Do":

"Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks, 
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others,
Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
Or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with the powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves in the open air,
Every season of every year of your life,
Reexamine all you have been told,
At school or church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem."

 How very timeless! Published in 1855, it's amazing how true every word is, still, in 2017. My favorite line- "Read these leaves in the open air, Every season of every year of your life." 

I'm grateful to be part of the Long Island Writing Project, which is so often nourishment for my professional teaching soul, taking me to places in my own backyard that I've yet to discover.