Monday, October 01, 2012

I loaf and invite my soul…

Here I sit, in my comfy chair on the 3rd floor of the college library. I have nothing to do, really. After a lifetime of working from dawn to shut-eye, teaching, writing, I wake every morning with nothing to do, or at least nothing that needs to be done at the moment. I walk the beloved Path to college in the sweetness of dawn, have coffee and a croissant in the quiet Commons (only a few students up at this hour), then to the library.

What a joy! To be surrounded with so many books and journals. I loaf and invite my soul, to quote Walt Whitman. I dawdle. I dally. I loiter and linger. After a lifetime of teaching I have the leisure to learn.

I have nothing to do but begin my studies.
Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,
The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,
The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,
The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,
I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.
An "inscription" from Whitman's Leaves of Grass, that most remarkable of documents. Anyone who does not find some part of herself or himself in Leaves of Grass has not looked deeply enough. It was Whitman's desire to "engirth" all of humanity, from our hightest spiritual aspirations right down to our nipples and navels, our gods and our gonads. But it is as a beginner of studies that I quote him here, as I drop my bag and settle into my chair. Another day with nothing to do, and a universe to help me do it,

The mere fact of consciousness could keep me all day reading. A spider! Shall I watch it until lunchtime? The colors that dance before my eyes (vision! the eye, the brain! what does the spider see?). And love. Irrepressible, uncontainable, spiritual and carnal, bursting -- gushing! -- out of this Library of America edition of Whitman's poetry and prose. I am large, I contain multitudes. What is here to attend is inexhaustible.

So much time. So little time. So much to learn. I stop, I loiter. I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.