“Walt and the Butterfly” sculpture commissioned by SGI (Sokka Gakki International) President Daisaku Ikeda and dedicated at the Walt Whitman Birthplace
Ted Hallman in his Walt Whitman hat with his favorite portrait of Walt in the enclosed Whitman Birthplace garden.
Walt Whitman’s Birthplace above was part of the Whitman’s 60 acre farm, which had developed from the original 520 acre Whitman family parcel. There was such a peace and serenity here in the midst of the surrounding urban center.
While attending the Network’s 2nd Women’s Suffrage Centennial Conference, I “met” Elizabeth Cady Stanton first at her home in Seneca Falls, then later that evening while touring the National Women’s Historical Park. She told me that she would have chosen Margaret Fuller to convene the first National Women’s Rights Conference if she had still been alive when I gave her a copy of Margaret’s “Woman in the Nineteenth Century.”
Antonia Petrash created a wonderful women’s suffrage conference with her team. She said that Lauren Kushnick of the New York Council for the Humanities, now Humanities New York, graciously held her hand as she applied for a Vision grant to support this conference. Lauren came forward to support these participants as they create events and programming for 2017. Humanities New York can even offer planning grants for your planning meetings for your women’s rights and suffrage events. Please contact Lauren. She is here for you!
Natalie Naylor presented important information on Long Island’s women suffragists. I look forward to reading her book which includes Margaret Fuller. Antonia’s daughter, Katherine Manning, was so helpful as we put our materials together for the conference. She presented a lovely program as a teacher to get children interested in the suffrage history. Author Brooke Kroeger added a crucial yet overlooked aspect of the women’s suffrage history: the men who marched with the women and voted for women’s suffrage in New York State in 1917. This will be in her new book.
After a well-deserved break with much information to integrate, Arlene Hinkemeyer spoke about the significance and work of the League of Women Voters. One could see her joy and passion for what she is doing and presenting. I spoke on the Margaret Fuller Historical Marker application to the Pomeroy Foundation and the collaborative efforts of the Beacon, New York coming together for the dedication. Then I led into the Margaret Fuller Memorial Tablet and Pavilion at Point O’Woods, Fire Island, New York, which was dedicated on July 19, 1901 and, later, swept into the sea in a terrible storm in 1913.I am working with interested others at Fire Island to restore the Memorial in some way where people can come and be present honoring.
Finally, Ellyn Okvist spoke on her extraordinary activities for women’s rights and suffrage at Lake Ronkonkoma, Long Island. She creates parades in traditional women’s suffrage clothing and reenactments with antique cars. Ellyn comes from an old Swedish lineage on Long Island and works for the documentation of the suffragettes and soldiers from her community buried in the local cemetery. She beams with such a light shining to do wonderful things!
There was a wonderful lunch provided. We could sit outside in Walt’s gardens or inside discussing our excitement and new plans for 2017. Some went on a guided tour of the Birthplace. I was able to get Antonia to sign her beautiful book on the Long Island suffragists, which I am eager to read! In the major interpretive center of the historic site, I was particularly moved by the segment on how the Spirit moved in Walt Whitman’s life. He was brought up by two broad-minded parents who were spiritual and questioned any religious hierarchy. Walt was drawn to the Transcendentalist principles of individual self-reliance and the mystical connection with nature. Yet he was very grounded in his humanity and inclusiveness. He felt that we were all connected and related. This was the heart of him and his groundbreaking poetry.
Walt Whitman greatly admired Margaret Fuller as a journalist and writer. He read her front-page articles in the New York Tribune as he published his newspaper on his printing press in Brooklyn. Walt was deeply saddened when Margaret tragically died in a shipwreck off of Fire Island. As Ted and I explored Huntington, Long Island, for supper this evening, we came upon the recent historic marker of the Press Club of Long Island commemorating the continuing publication of the Long Islander newspaper which Walt began in a barn in Huntington.
When Walt lived and worked in Brooklyn, A. Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau, who lived with Emerson’s brother’s family on Staten Island and tutored his children, would visit him and walk with him.
I feel so fortunate to be blessed to deepen my relationship and understanding of this extraordinary circle of intuitive colleagues and friends who brought a deep spirituality and substance to living in the world beyond the five senses. I applaud their courage and strength in the midst of mainstream religious fervor and the detrimental drawbacks of the Industrial Revolution. We needed their insights and revelations then as we need them now in our current strife and chaos.
There are those of us who are called to carry on their creative and spiritual work as though they are alive and breathing and moving through us. We are blessed by their beauty and depth of being. They guide and drive us to be our best in the world to serve.
Ted and I left Lederach, PA this morning about 10 am, witnessing the beautiful sun-filled day with plenty of blue skies and some puffy clouds as we drove along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the New Jersey Turnpike to the Brooklyn Beltway East onto Long Island. It was incredible to see the burgeoning flaming colors of the peak fall foliage all along the way: yellow, orange, and deep-burgundy red. What a delight to the senses! I could not believe that there were so many trees and bushes along this route. This exhilarating experience lifted me up as we journeyed. Ted navigated this special route while I focused and concentrated as we moved quickly and slowly as traffic allowed.
You must experience driving on the upper level of the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn. I was taken away by the beauty of the water with the city. Now I understand why New York City has become our major city: the bounty and abundance of the water! And I got to see Coney Island for the first time from a distance. My dad told me through the years how my Grandpappy Barnett would get his free family pass for the train since he worked for the railroad. On Sundays, the family would take their food and travel by train from Bethlehem, PA to Coney Island, New York, where they would spend the day at the beach.
Once we got on Route 110 and Walt Whitman Road, I saw through my mind’s eye that Whitman walked this old road through the years. I could see him taking his time, meeting and interacting with people he knew there, then going on his way. The area must have given him great inspiration for his life and poetry. I even caught a glimpse of his white dog running beside him. I felt a great ease knowing we had arrived safely on Walt Whitman Road within minutes of his Birthplace.
We visited the site of our Long Island Woman Suffrage Centennial Conference tomorrow after we had checked into our motel to see if we could eat our lunches in the beauty and peace outside in the Whitman historic site and the beautiful day. Executive Director Cynthia Shor of the Walt Whitman Birthplace was lovely to meet and she graciously allowed us to sit and eat in the beautiful courtyard of the property. The sun warmed us in the cool autumn day as the sky turned cloudless in an endless blue. It was wonderful to be in the energy of where Walt and his family lived early in his life.
After our late lunch, the tour guide began her Whitman Birthplace tour with a playing of the actual voice of Walt speaking the first four lines of his poem, “America,” as recorded by Thomas Edison. It was incredible to hear him speaking his own words now. He was precise in his phrasing and diction, emphasizing certain words. Yes, Walt had a special way of speaking his poetry.
Walt’s father was English and a gifted carpenter who built this house; his mother was New Netherlands Dutch and brought such joy. As I walked through the entertainment room where cards were played and music was performed, I felt this beautiful feeling of a very happy family. I was lifted by this precious loving and joyful feeling and presence. Dutch doors were featured by Walt’s dad and he placed an old penny coin in his beautifully-carved wooden bannister railing at the top of the stairs on the second floor for good luck and blessings.
Walt’s Dutch grandmother’s chair is now displayed on the second floor where she stayed with the family when she visited. The statue of Walt with the butterfly on the grounds was commissioned by Daisaku Ikeda with his own words of poetry. This brought my life full-circle. When I lived in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA, I practiced Sokka Gakkai International Buddhism (SGI Buddhism) which Daisaku Ikeda directed as its lay leader. This is a Mahayana Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra for chanting meditation as inspired by Nichiren Daishonon, a Japanese medieval monk of the 12th century who was an incarnation of the Shakyamuni Buddha (the original Buddha). The SGI is a non-governmental organization of the United Nations working for peace, culture, and education.
In the gift shop at the end of our visit, Ted spotted beautiful wool Walt Whitman-inspired hats for sale like the one Walt wore. He bought them for us. As we explored Huntington on Main Street later in the afternoon, two men acknowledged these exquisite hats to us and one even inquired where we bought them. The magic of Walt Whitman continues to loom here in this special place.
After I had felt such joyful energy in Walt’s family home, our special tour guide pointed out in the gift shop what Walt had written about visiting his Birthplace for the New York Tribune, which Margaret Fuller had reported for from 1844 to 1850. Walt “had spent many happy times” there. My intuition was confirmed again by the facts.
On Saturday, November 5, The Long Island Woman Suffrage Association meets at the Walt Whitman Birthplace Historic Site in Huntington Station, NY to confer in conference to create momentum and inspiration together as planning ensues for next year’s 100th Anniversary events. I have been invited to speak on Margaret Fuller in New York.
The Margaret Fuller Memorial Tablet and Pavilion were erected at Point O’Woods, Fire Island, in 1901 by Lillie Devereux Blake and the women of the summer colony there. Alas!, in 1913, a terrific storm swept the memorial into the sea near where Margaret Fuller, her husband, and child Angelino were drowned by a hurricane in the shipwreck of the Elizabeth on July 19, 1850.