Tag Archives: Walt Whitman

Oh Captain, my captain!


How does one grieve the loss of such a head of state?

I’ve only ever known about the Queen–too young to appreciate anyone before her, uncertain of the following act. I feel at sea without her.

My parents took me to grow up in the USA and, though I remained a Canadian patriot and fled north as soon as I could, it took me a while to understand the government of my birth country. Who were these lieutenants and governors general? What possible point did they have?

I have to admit to remaining puzzled about this, especially after a certain proroguing parliament exercise, but I’ve never doubted the Queen. She was always there. Always doing things in the proper way, always a constant in the wildly changing world I’ve grown up in. I had the feeling she was the stopgap before madness took the world over, the sober second thought our Senate is supposed to be.

I know, I know, she was to be apolitical–and I’m sure she played her role well–but simply her length of service made her a vital resource to world leaders. And yes, I know the Commonwealth was really anything but that–much of it remains poor, actually, and prejudice and bad treatment abounded.

But I never got the feeling she was encouraging the racist agenda. She seemed to float above it, like the goal we should all work towards. The person who put duty and country above all, who showed up for work almost every day of her life, who put up with all the noise and fuss and nasty remarks and just wore it all with a beatific smile.

It was left to her governments to wield the axe. And of course, I am not at the receiving end of some of the more disadvantageous policies of them, so I can say little.

But be that as it may, like so many people today, I feel I am mourning my grandmother. My own grandmother had that queen’s smile. A gentle nature, incredible patience with her demanding husband and a houseful of pranksters, I never heard her raise her voice or say anything negative about anyone. She was from England, too. I yearn for her level of grace. (I doubt I will ever attain it, though). I think of her when I think of the Queen. Cut from tough and beautiful cloth, enduring, like a well woven tapestry.

I know it’s got to be King Charles now, and I wish him well, I suppose, but he simply doesn’t have that way about him. Maybe the crown will give him dignity. He’s not going to be able to come close to filling the gap left by that astonishing sovereign his mother, though.

So I’m feeling deeply sad. I’m grieving the loss of a woman so far away from me in so many ways it’s astonishing that I feel such a strong connection. Godspeed, your Highness. If there’s a heaven, I hope they’ve arranged a lovely garden party for you, and a welcome rest. Knowing you, though, I’ll bet you’ll be at work right away.

“Oh Captain, my Captain! Our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.”

Walt Whitman

Hug the world goodnight

Despite the metal sign over my door that reads “Laugh Out Loud”, I’m not a fan of those stick on aphorisms, the endless “Live, Love, Laugh” painted bits of wood, the tiny segments of quotations that are so bland as to make them meaningless. Bit I do have a yearning for little bits of poetry, excerpts from movies, last lines of great novels, somehow included in my life, hidden but in plain sight.

I have “Let the world breathe you” hidden in a rug I’m doing for a backrest for my bed. I 51PZS3Z5J9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_found that in a tape by Andrew Weill, MD, one of the few hipster gurus that seems to have his head screwed on right (plus he’s so darn healthy and happy looking it’s hard not to believe him. Every time I have salmon with butter I raise a toast to him and his advice.) On this relaxation tape, he encouraged listeners to simply let go and pretend that the world was breathing for you. Try it. It feels wonderfully supporting, like there really is a god and he or she truly cares for you. It IS miraculous how our bodies work. Even if they slip up now and again, they take a lot of abuse and keep on supporting us…

Another line I’ve always liked is from Walt Whitman, as quoted in “Now, Voyager”, a movie with the fabulous Bette Davis, finally escaping into her own after climbing out from under a domineering mother. The movie also has the Claude Rains, a man of infinite charm.

The poem, called “Untold Want”, has always pulled at my soul. See what you think.quote-the-untold-want-by-life-and-land-ne-er-granted-now-voyager-sail-thou-forth-to-seek-and-find-walt-whitman-311738

As with my favourite word, hiraeth, there’s an undefined feeling of longing. I’ve always had that. It makes me restless, not discontent, just endlessly searching for something. Perhaps for my long-gone parents, perhaps for a community, perhaps for my spiritual past. There’s another word, from The Meaning of Liff, scothropping. It means making the shape of what you want while looking for it, as in making your fingers look like scissors when you are digging through a drawer looking for them. I figure that’s what I’m doing 3with my various activities – knitting while looking for ties, needle stabbing while looking for sensation, writing while looking for my mind, playing the ukulele in search of music. Or maybe I simply want Claude Rains. Or even a fabulous hat.

I’ve been reading a lot about relationships for my upcoming book on MS and intimacy. I read that, of course, it’s hard to be intimate if you aren’t intimate friends, if you don’t share lives or ideas or non-naughty life together. It’s shared experiences and ideas that make the relationship weather the rocky parts. It’s the touch of love, not sex, that builds connection, the caring interest, the pat on the back. My marriage starved through a lack of feeding that side, both of our faults.

So I was thinking of the pillows you see everywhere that say “Kiss me goodnight.” It occurred to me that the pillow should be meant for BOTH partners, whereas now it seems to read like a command for one to the other. Or maybe the pillows should read “Hug me goodnight.” Because a hug can mean so much more than a kiss, which in my case leads to lust and then well, the moment gets all tangled up with that.

And then I got to thinking that the real thought should instead be gratitude. Gratitude that the world still exists, that the sun will rise tomorrow, that you are lucky enough to have a partner who loves you in the world. Or, in my case, a purring cat sitting on my chest. Whipping his tail past my eyes.

So maybe the thought should be to hug the world goodnight…hmm. Maybe I can work that into a bed pillow…