I recently pushed away from my desk in favour of a walk in the forest with Whitman. The deadline to finish my novel looms, but a part of me called out the restorative time in nature. The October air was cool against my cheek that day and the earthy smell of fallen leaves ever present. The sumacs had turned blood red and the poplar leaves became shimmering coins against the sky.
A character in my novel The Last Hoffman, has drawn me to Leaves of Grass, a collection of poetry by Walt Whitman. Much of Whitman’s work centres on nature and so he was a fitting companion for my forest walk.
“Here by myself away from the clank of the world,
Tallying and talk’d to here by tongues aromatic,
No longer abash’d, (for in this secluded spot I can respond as I would
not dare elsewhere)”
Walt Whitman, excerpt from Paths Untrodden from Leaves of Grass
For me, walking is a meditative exercise and when done in nature, the effect is doubly so. My breath slows and deepens. The stress knotted in my chest and shoulders relaxes. I’m in the moment and this is when thoughts flow freely, problems resolve themselves, and my creative mind is refreshed.
“O earth that hast no voice, confide to me a voice,
O harvest of my lands—O boundless summer growths,
O lavish brown parturient earth—O infinite teeming womb,
A song to narrate thee.”
Walt Whitman, excerpt from The Return of Heroes from Leaves of Grass
The forest reminded me that life pulses according to cycles. Vegetation dies and breaks apart into new forms that nourish the earth so new life can rise in the spring. I remind myself that creative energy also has its own ebbs and surges. Some thoughts grow into prose and verse. Some compost when enough time has passed and new offshoots of thought surface.
“Winds of autumn, as I walk’d the woods at dusk I heard your longstretch’d
sighs up above so mournful,”
Walt Whitman, excerpt from I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ
A few hours passed and I returned to the warmth of home. Awash with inspiration and wrapped in a shawl, I drew my chair close to the desk and, once again, inhabited the lives of my characters.
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2020 update! The novel referred to in the article is now available
at Amazon in print & ebook format.
Sacrifice, betrayal, family secrets! A widower and young mother struggle to overcome their tragic pasts in a dying mill town. The Last Hoffman explores environmental issues, mental health & social isolation.
October 29, 2016 at 7:43 am
Perfect way to take a break from writing, clear the head and become refreshed. Happy Fall!
October 29, 2016 at 10:00 am
So nice to hear from you! Every time I take that time out for a hike, I return to all aspects of life feeling completely invigorated.
October 29, 2016 at 8:22 am
Gwen We met through Cryssa when you were giving a presentation at the Railway Station. She has shared some your writing with me from time to time and I have enjoyed it very much. Your post on your “Whitman Wood Walk” was very special. I’m lucky enough to live in a home that looks into the woods and I love to walk there too. Your words resonated …restoration and solace. Thank you. Patricia Ward
Sent from my Samsung device
October 29, 2016 at 2:06 pm
Patricia, what a treat to hear from you. So glad this piece resonates with you. Isn’t it great to have the Station Art Gallery in our immediate neighbourhood. Cryssa and I enjoyed putting the workshop together.
I appreciate your comment regarding my work. It’s such a tremendous pleasure for me to write everyday. Take good care Patricia. I hope our paths cross again in person.
October 29, 2016 at 9:40 am
I feel as though I’ve walked with you. A good reminder to leave time for these necessary moments.
October 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm
How nice! No matter how many times I hike a path familiar to me, there’s always a new feast for the eyes. Someone recently told me that we are human beings, not human doings. Not an easy thing to remember in our North American culture. I hope you are enjoying these moments also. Cheers!
October 29, 2016 at 9:42 am
Loved this! Your words are as rich as Walt’s.
October 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm
One can’t help but wax poetic when Whitman is paired with the great outdoors. Thanks for the generous comment. So glad you enjoyed this piece.
October 29, 2016 at 1:39 pm
I’ve recommended it to a few friends
October 29, 2016 at 1:57 pm
Wonderful! Much appreciated ❤
October 29, 2016 at 8:10 pm
A walk in the woods on a beautiful autumn days can do wonders. It can make the whole world seem so much better.
October 30, 2016 at 9:06 am
Did you ever read anything in your ancestor’s journals about autumn walks?
October 30, 2016 at 10:45 pm
hmm. . . In my grandmother’s diary, she walked everywhere – from the family farm into town for school each day, to neighboring farms to visit friends, etc, but I can’t remember her ever specifically saying. that she took a walk in the woods in the fall. But she did gather arbutus in the forest in the spring. For example, on April 13 1911 she wrote, “We went to gather dandelions, and worked awhile, then went to hunt for trailing arbutus in the woods.”
October 30, 2016 at 11:36 pm
Thanks for that. Such a lovely glimpse into the past.
October 30, 2016 at 5:43 pm
I too have been walking among autumn trees recently, it’s a great way to re-charge the creative batteries 🙂
October 30, 2016 at 11:30 pm
I noticed you’ve also had some “Autumn Inspiration” and some exciting pursuits. Really wonderful, Andrea!
November 4, 2016 at 11:07 am
Beautifully penned. Wonderful imagery. I journeyed with you through the forest (something I cannot do confined to my bed). So refreshing. You are an incredible author. Thank you for following one of my blogs. It has given me the opportunity to *meet* you and learn from you.
November 7, 2016 at 8:46 am
Nancy, I am honoured by your comments. So glad we’ve connected. What a courageous lady you are. It always moves me when someone bares their soul to support and encourage others. I look forward to knowing you better through your writings.
October 15, 2020 at 2:32 pm
Reblogged this on Gwen Tuinman and commented:
I find pleasure in revisiting an autumn reflection I wrote as the finish line to completing my manuscript for “The Last Hoffman” drew near. The forest is everything. But it’s even sweeter with Walt Whitman’s verses in hand.