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.