“I will sing the song of companionship.”

—Walt Whitman


I walk my usual neighborhood loop this autumn eve breathing in the muted air—unseasonably warm, like springtime in November. Calm visits me like an old friend as the blue dusk slips toward closure.

I exhale with half a nation.

I have felt disquieted—more than I had noticed; my knuckles whiter than I knew. To release is to realize. (I had been watching CNN for more than three days straight when I went for my walk, not noting the toll until just then.)

I breathe as I walk. I cry a little too.

In her memoir Blue Nights, Joan Didion defines this time of day as “when the twilights turn long and blue.” She describes the blue night as a period of suspension, when “you think the end of day will never come.” A caesura. Yet days do end, and next ones come—an easy rhythm, our lives shaped as perpetual glide in and out of the gloaming.

As I walk I think of the other half, and the impossible space between us. So much trauma. So much fear. So much anger. It all seems impossible.

And in these blue nights, we walk.

(I learn the night has taken another lonely boy; so many battered souls.)


I am tired, and believe our world could use more kindness. I wish for some gleam of a seemingly impossible dawn.

In an era more divisive than our own, Walt Whitman witnessed much. As a nurse during the Civil War, he knew firsthand of carnage and death; pain and grief; the terror of boys dying.

(“Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity, some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether, the odor of blood”)

Yet to the young and dying, be they friend or foe, he attended kindly, in deed and in word. We have his poetry today as witness. (Poetry cannot save us, but it helps.)

I turn to his words:

“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

“You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

“Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

So very lovely—such promise of grace.


“I’m struggling with ups and downs of mood swings,” writes a friend I had not heard from for some time.

I invite him for a walk.