a difficult charge to live up to, from my man Walt Whitman, but if he managed to avoid despair and desolation in the face of the Civil War, I can certainly at least aspire to his mystical engagement with the wonders of this world, exactly as it is, rather than as I might wish it could be.
today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death, so along with the Whitman my brother so eloquently posted in the comments yesterday, I am posting a recording Joycie introduced me to in 1985 or 86, which I regret not playing at her funeral. full volume. I play it every year in her honor.
Walter Hawkins: I’m Goin’ Away on Love Alive II
I visited this high volume ritual on patient and hopefully not too long-suffering Richard and Mac in the midst of driving around Bemidji today doing various errands, which take on thrilling overtones when you’re camping out. Laundry! Groceries! Oil Change! we also had a few hours in a pleasant cafe in downtown Bemidji where I tried to get the bills organized, if not actually paid. we set up camp at Bemidji State Park, which is blessedly nearly empty midweek, and laid out all the clean laundry and organized it into little subsections, each going into its own plastic bag. and each category of food into its own bags as well. totally OCD. I feel like I’m re-inventing skills the army has been inculcating in recruits since forever: a place for everything, everything in its place. but with a small car and three people suiting up for three different kinds of activities, it can get crazy pretty quickly if we aren’t anal about it!
Richard made a fine dinner for us with the new groceries, and read to us as he has each night from Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out
by Annette Atkins, a really wonderful book about Minnesota history for the general reader. Totally recommended!
I love the Whitman poem (and the quote in your post title). Contentment and triumph are, of course, good things to feel, but isn’t struggle a natural and necessary human condition? I’m not sure life would have as much meaning without it.
Hi Eve! Glad to hear that the trip is going well. I love this post title quote, too — esp. since it seems so delightfully oxymoronic. Without struggle, how could we ever triumph? But is not to be content to seek to not (actively) overcome one’s struggles? Maybe this is just Whitman’s much more eloquent way of saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”? I see this as a wonderful prism through which to view your river journey — a sorting out of what struggles need to be overcome (so that triumphs, both artistic and moral [as if there is really a difference], can be attained) and which ones need not. Please say hi to Mac for me (and Richard, too, even though I don’t know him)! I look forward to reading more of your triumphs!
I hadn’t seen these great comments before. To me, it seems as though Whitman’s charge is to be content and triumph simply in the act of experiencing. Not to see contentment and triumph as the end-goal of struggle, or struggle as something to be overcome (“For I do not see one imperfection in the universe”). But also to include in the experience of struggle an appreciation for and celebration of that experience. And that perhaps the main struggle of life is to find this state of contentment and triumph everywhere, in every single moment. Perhaps the process of finding this, in spite of struggle, is what gives life such great meaning.