Walt Whitman quote from Specimen Days, Crystal Spring Park boardwalk, Laurel Springs, NJ, photograph by Michelle Tennison
What is the shortest distance between two points?
A fully formed body of light
Question Sabine Miller, Answer Michelle Tennison (2015)
I love poetry. And I especially love Walt Whitman. He wrote that “every hour of light and dark is a miracle.” I got a sense of that myself when I ventured into an unlikely little park in the middle of suburbia.
Crystal Spring Park in Laurel Springs, New Jersey:
What I now know: Walt Whitman spent his summers between 1876 and 1884 in a farmhouse near Crystal Spring, a low magnitude natural spring at the eastern end of Laurel Lake in Laurel Springs, Camden County New Jersey. Whitman was convalescing at the time and is said to have visited the spot often to drink and bathe there as he regarded the waters to be healing in nature. The spring is still active today, trickling gently downhill into Laurel Lake.
Much of Whitman’s Specimen Days and part of Leaves of Grass (which he added to throughout his life) were written at this location. A boardwalk trail in the park features quotes from his Nature-notes of 1887-81 for Specimen Days.
It was sunrise when I arrived, and there was a dream-like quality to my experience here, like I had entered an alternate universe where poetry was understood to be integral to our humanity, because it is.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
From Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, William Carlos Williams
Let us remember … that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.
— Christian Wiman, former editor of Poetry magazine
Crystal Spring Park, Laurel Springs, NJ, Michelle Tennison