In 1855 an unknown American journalist, Walt Whitman, printed himself by hand (he couldn't find a publisher) a little book of 12 poems entitled Leaves Of Grass. It took America by storm. Some readers, like the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, loved it; others loathed it. Its form, its subject matter, its language - every aspect was quite unlike any other poetry that had gone before. Free verse had arrived and come to stay. Each new edition of Leaves Of Grass contained new poems until there were nearly 400 in the collection. This poem from Leaves Of Grass called Miracles is also contained in The Golden Treasury Of Poetry:
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim - the rocks - the motion of the waves - the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
For Whitman nothing was insignificant. In his poetry he witnessed and celebrated what he termed the glory of the commonplace. Some of my favourite blogs - such as Beating The Bounds, The Weaver Of Grass and Riverdaze - also attempt to do this; that is, they document and celebrate the "everyday" details of life in their own backyards (though what backyards - Morecambe Bay, the Yorkshire Dales and a river in Ohio!) Somehow, in describing day by day these local, backyard "miracles", these "miracles" are constantly being refreshed and renewed. The magical acts of writing about (and photographing) these daily "miracles" ensure they are remembered; in some miraculous way they become part of a world consciousness.
There are miracles all around us. We only have to step back occasionally from our busy, humdrum lives of deadline and routine, slow down for just a few minutes, control our breathing so that our breath is regular and even, and look...