I tell you this with some urgency. Life is short, and we must make large of it. We must wake each day conscious to its possibilities. We must wake expectant. We must wake ready. We must participate. This is my declaration.
Walt Whitman began his poem Leaves of Grass —
I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at ease…observing a spear of summer grass.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Original 1855 Edition. Edited by Joslyn T. Pine, New York, 2007. (p. 21)
I drove this morning to the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, an area comprised of some 50,000 acres of wetlands, scrublands, forest and grassland. The rain pelted my windshield, and the ponds edging the gravel road looked gray, windswept and forlorn. I was without my camera or binoculars having driven to the refuge on a whim, and so was unable to record the great flocks of pelicans that rose unexpectedly from the water. I tried to capture with my cell phone camera the Canada geese goslings trailing their parents across the road. From the car, I watched great blue herons and cormorants lift heavily from the ponds. I witnessed coots and mallards too numerous to count sheltering among the cattails. Redwing and yellow-headed blackbirds congregated noisily on thick marsh debris. As I headed out of the refuge, the rain stopped and the sun shone. Water that had looked forbidding now appeared inviting. Wind that had been discomfiting now seemed soothing. Above the water, swallows swooped and dove. Birds whose names I did not know cried in alarm and took chase. Pelicans fished. Hawks soared above the scrubland. How quickly life changes, I thought. How unexpectedly I am re-created by it.
I thought again of Whitman:
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Original 1855 Edition. (p. 22)
Everywhere in northwestern Minnesota, there are changes. Plum blossoms scent the air with intoxicating perfume. Juneberry blossoms clothe field edges in bursts of white. Wood anemone and purple and yellow violets carpet woodlot floors. In a day’s time, the wild sarsaparilla has leapt inches in height, and the ferns, in a seeming race against the clock, have stretched through the duff and opened their fronds. Yesterday the nodding trillium began to bloom, and today the woodlot is filled with trillium flowers. Birds call from trees, but I cannot pinpoint their whereabouts in the rapidly filling canopy. Bumblebees drone heavily among the flowering grasses and blossoms. On a warm afternoon, I am dazed by the sounds and smells surrounding me.
My brother-in-law’s fields are now planted. My husband has turned his attention from the large cultivator to the garden tractor. Heading out-of-town this morning, I saw land planted only weeks ago turning green with wheat.
A child brought Walt Whitman a handful of grass and asked, “What is grass?”
How could I answer the child? … I do not know what it is any more
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remebrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child…the produced babe of the
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Original 1855 Edition. (p. 24)
Spring is urgently upon us in northwestern Minnesota. Newness is everywhere, and I tell you, we must make large of it. This is my declaration. We must wake ready. We must wake conscious to its possibilities. We must participate …only then will we be poised to witness – as my husband and I witnessed Friday evening – the wholly unexpected: