As the March days lengthen and brighten with sunshine, I am drawn to Walt Whitman…
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
Yes, we take to the open road. We explore, we shed coats and heavy clothing and tilt our faces to soak up the sun’s warmth. We wander. We search garden beds for purple crocus buds, and emerald green daffodil sprouts. We look longingly at the lilac bushes, but we must wait. It is not yet their time. We will not whimper, we are reminded to be patient. We take to the open sidewalks that are finally free of snow and ice. We soak up each sign of spring while listening to the rattling trill of the returning sandhill cranes and the drumming of woodpeckers.
Henceforth we postpone no more. What have you put off? We have much to explore, places to go, songs and poems to write, people to visit who need a friend. Do not wait. Postpone no more.
And, yes, let us be done with querulous criticisms. The late winter months overflow with testy and tetchy comments, cantankerous and crotchety people, sullen and sour moods, petulant and peevish behavior. Let us be done with them. Afoot and light-hearted we take to the open road. We will choose kindness and compassion as our travel guides.
But are we done with libraries, really? Libraries: the first and last bastion of Open Inquiry? Today information is everywhere: at the tips of our fingers, on the screens that we position between our face and the faces of those we love or those who we have yet to get to know, and in radio waves that can either caress or assault our ears. Information is fed to us constantly, but are we nourished? Have we gained knowledge or just acquired information?
We have Google, what need do we have of libraries? Oh, the world that asks such a question. Dear Walt, it is here that we must disagree. You must not have seen the children performing a puppet show for their parents last week, the teens gathered to study surrounded by books and fireplace, the unemployed mother using a computer to regain her stability, the librarian finding answers that Google could not, the clerks checking out stacks and stacks of books that will nourish and feed many souls, the good work that C3 members do to support the Muskegon Heights Public Library. We need libraries. We will always need libraries. We wander the shelves and have questions, though. The religions of the world coexist so peacefully in Melville Dewey’s 200s. Christians, Buddhists, Jews and Atheists sit together in harmony on the shelves. We can do better. We look at the pitifully small number of books in 341: Peace. We wish their numbers compared better with those in 355 (Battles and Weapons), 940.1 (WWI), 940.5 (WWII), 959.7 (Vietnam War), 956.7 (Persian Gulf War), 305. 23 (Children of War). We have work to do. I have strayed from light-hearted. My apologies. We need more 784.52 (Bluegrass Music!) And we will have it soon. Meanwhile…
Where is it that you want the open road to take you? What path of inquiry calls? Are you headed in the right direction? Do you need a travel companion?
I offer you the final lines of Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”…
C3 Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?