One of the first assignments I ever had in graduate school was a reflection paper on the Walt Whitman poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” At the time I wondered what this assignment had to do with the world of counseling. It is a simple, short poem about a guy who attends a lecture held by a very scholarly astronomer. In time however, the author grows tired of the academic proofs and figures being bandied about, so much so that he slips out of the lecture hall into the night air to sit in silence and gaze up at the stars. After reading the poem many times, I diligently wrote my paper, but I never quite figured out what this simple poem had to do with graduate school and becoming a licensed professional mental health counselor.
That assignment was for a class back in the summer of 2010. I am half-way through my program now. Each successive school quarter becomes more challenging. My head is filled with facts and figures, scholarly peer-reviewed articles, papers to write and books to read — all from an academic perspective. And I am indeed learning a lot about the field of counseling. So much so, that at times I, like the author of the poem, need to slip out of the lecture halls and gaze in silence at the stars. Periodically I need what I call “a Walt Whitman moment.”
This morning I woke up with “assignments due” on my mind, certain that I would have to rush through my ritual “quiet time” and get right to my studies. When this quarter began almost two weeks ago, I vowed that I would “leave the blogs alone” until June when the quarter draws to a close. I am already chin deep in the most difficult classes to date. Rather than plant myself in front of my window to watch the sun rise while sipping my coffee and listening to the warbling of birds as they come to life, I chose instead to check my email and blog comments before commencing with the next research paper.
And this is where I had my Walt Whitman moment! Doris, a regular reader and blogger, left a comment on one of my blogs along with a link to one of her posts. I hesitated to check it out because I had so much work piled up and deadlines looming, but in the end I thought I would quickly take a peek and leave a comment–a courtesy for a blogging friend. And that choice is what led me to ‘slip out of the lecture hall to sit and silently gaze up at the stars’. See the bottom of this post for the link to a breathtaking few minutes. It is a wonderful way to start your day.
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.
180. When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer
- Poetry Thursday: When I heard the learn’d astronomer (thatpenguingirl.wordpress.com)
- To A Stranger: Walt Whitman (michellechaplin.com)
- Trapper’s Wedding – Walt Whitman (biblioklept.org)
- Patience: Whitman’s Wisdom (mindfulnessandme.org)
- that which is not True offends my Soul (redheadjourney.wordpress.com)
- “Walter, Leave Off” – D.H. Lawrence on Walt Whitman (biblioklept.org)
- Oscar Wilde’s Letter to Walt Whitman (biblioklept.org)
- Walt Whitman, Unsurprisingly, Was Not a Prescriptive Grammarian (biblioklept.org)
- 1856 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (thenightlypoem.com)
- Understanding Walt Whitman (greatmentor.net)
- walt whitman. (porkbellyposts.com)
- All of David Markson’s References in The Last Novel to Walt Whitman (biblioklept.org)