A Page from Deidre’s Journal

February 20, 2002
Response to Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Stanza 6


It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also,
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality meagre?
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabb’d, blush’d, resented, lied, stole, grudg’d,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Was one with the rest, the days and haps of the rest,
Was call’d by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me approaching or passing,
Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat,
Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, yet never told them a word,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Play’d the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.

This is my favorite section of this poem. It is an affirmation – a reassurance – it is an entire PHILOSOPHY. From it, I get such a sense of acceptance. Being human is not about being a perfect being. Being human is both dark and light, good and evil, celebration and mourning. To be wholly human, you have to understand and cherish the “bad” – to define/understand/inform your notion of “good.” There’s such a sense of UNITY – that evil and good are the same thing (very Blake-ian) – innocence and experience: to appreciate innocence, you have to have passed THROUGH it to experience. But having experience precludes your ever again being innocent. And this state of awakening/ understanding/acceptance is the way it should and must be.

Perhaps gaining wisdom is all about understanding that the necessarily seemingly dichotomous nature of life isn’t really a division at all . . . that the two are joined as the two sides of a coin are joined, or as the two ends of a bridge are joined. They lead to each other and are incapable of being complete without the other.

I love the sense of self-determination in this stanza, too. We play a role – as WE MAKE IT – as large or as small – BOTH great and small. I love the apparent contradictions – because for me, they are no longer contradictions, but a distillation of my philosophy. I believe that it is essential to embrace and cherish all experiences in order to completely understand them.




March 5, 2002

WOW! I just love these “Henry” books my step-mom got for Tori. How thoughtful of her – she got them so that Tori will have a sense of what I’m experiencing on our upcoming trip. I love the thought of being able to introduce my four-year-old daughter to philosophies I embrace despite her being so young.

Read about D.B. Johnson and his “Henry” books.




March 19, 2002

Walden Pond – Thoreau’s Cabin – This could not be a better day. The snow and mist make the pond seem so intimate. There are so few people here; with the snow, it seems almost untouched. I am overwhelmed to have trod the same path that Thoreau did. How amazing to look through the trees at his cove. I love that we’re all here together. I feel like we’re such a community – a little family almost. We can be philosophical and thoughtful, but still have such great fun. I am so fortunate to be able to share this experience with such dear friends.

I love the thought of living deliberately on this trip – I look forward to looking back on these words and remembering how close, comfortable, warm, cozy, and safe I feel – in this group – in the middle of a New England Winter.

March 24, 2002

I can’t quite believe that I’m back at home. I feel so disoriented. I’m exhausted and disconnected, though O-so-glad to be home. I had one of the best times of my life on this trip. I just cannot express it. Tonight, Tori wanted me to read her her “Henry” books. I started crying while reading “Henry Builds a Cabin.” I’m just overwhelmed to have actually stood in his “dining room,” his “library,” and followed the “stairway” to his ballroom, the pond. Tori couldn’t understand why I was so emotional; she wanted to run and get her daddy and tell him I was crying. I couldn’t explain to her how amazing it is that I was THERE – that I sat at Henry’s “desk” – and that I left a little bit of ME there in the woods at Walden Pond. Oh . . . I just don’t know . . . I’m crying again as I write this.



Deidre Schaefer is an English Education major at Shepherd College.

“American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide” was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit “About This Site.” © 2003 Linda Tate.