What to read: “Pioneer! O Pioneer!” and “A Promise to California” (excerpts from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman)
What to drink: 21st Amendment “Brew Free! Or Die” IPA
As some of you may know, I recently made a major change in my life – two weeks ago, I moved from my lifelong home southern California and relocated to the east coast. It’s not been an easy transition, to say the least, but the hardest parts (the actual picking up and moving) are over.
In my last days living in California, I visited a place I’d wanted to see almost my whole life – Yosemite. The national park encompasses much of what is wonderful about California – majestic, sweeping landscapes, epic forests, serene rivers and valleys and lakes. Vast, breathtaking, wild beauty. It’s no wonder that it inspired the creation of the Yosemite Grant (which celebrated its 150th anniversary while I was in the park), the foundation for U.S. national parks.
As we drove into the park, one of my companions had us listen to a poem by Walt Whitman. To be completely honest, the words of “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” fell on my proverbial deaf ears as we cruised through the valleys – I was too enchanted by the obscenely gorgeous scenery to really listen. However now, having time to reflect both on that trip and my transition to New York, the poem really struck a chord with me.
“All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!”
Now, this poem is an ode to pioneers traveling west. You know, the exact opposite of what I did. However, Whitman exalts their bravery, heading into the wild unknown – I can’t help but feel encouraged by that as I venture off into my own kind of wild. The poem both reminds me of the epic adventurous landscapes of California and the courage it took to leave what I find familiar. It is a kind of homesick reassurance.
While we’re waxing sentimental, I suggest (if you can get your hands on it), drinking a can of “Brew Free! Or Die” IPA, brewed in San Francisco. We drank copious amounts of this while in Yosemite, and good, nay, GREAT times were had by all in the California wilderness. Let’s raise a toast to the great state of California, and read some Whitman out loud – “A Promise to California” (as I interpret anyway), brings tears to this homesick girl’s eyes:
“Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to remain,
to teach robust American love,
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you,
inland, and along the Western sea;
For these States tend inland and toward the Western sea, and I will also.”