American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide



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A Page from Jeanette's Journal

"My Commute"
In response to Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

My commute is a short 2 ˝ mile trek between Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown, over the W.Va.-MD bridge on the Potomac, down High Street, and into the faculty parking lot. I have reflected many times on this journey, but that is not the one I wish to discuss yet. When I was in college here at Shepherdback when it was a collegeI lived on the west side of campus. My homes were various, including Shaw Hall, Miller Hall, and Westwoods, but my sometimes twice daily journey was always the same. I would leave my dorm and end up at the south end of Miller Hall. Here I waited on the corner until the cars slowed down and I crossed onto High Street. This was the part of my “commute” that I want to tell you about. Although it occurred last in May of 1993, that walk holds fast in my mind and my heart. I took that walk in all seasons of the year; during fall days when the leaves were colored so warm and richly, in the winter when the brisk air chilled me so that it hurt in the marrow of my bones, in the spring when the cheery daffodils and the pale blushing tulips waved their heads from their beds, and in the heat of summer when it was a joy to walk this route just to hide from the sun in the cool shade of the trees that lined the street. I especially remember my freshman year, walking with a good friend through the autumn leaves and stopping to see if we could locate the squirrel chattering in the tree above us as he gathered his winter store. The passage was always the same; cross the road and follow the uneven brick sidewalk past the neat row of houses lining the left side of the street. Sometimes an acquaintance would call to me as he passed in his car on the road. Many times there were squirrels chatting above me and darting back and forth across my way. A few times I met local cats and the town dogs, and even once or twice, a rabbit peeked out among the grass. Mostly there were just students passing and nodding on their travels to and from class. Very few times did I ever think about those who took this excursion before me; never can I remember thinking of who would come after, although the path ended at the Shepherd College Nursery School.

I don’t walk that way anymore. I found myself far from this home for many years. Now, I am back, and I do drive this passage three or more times a week. As Whitman did, I presently think of that walk I used to take regularly. I think of the students I saw following the same path, my path, and I wonder about the future that will tread upon these uneven bricks. I realize now that we are all connected. We have shared equivalent thoughts, participated in unified emotions, wandered upon these irregular stone pathways just as our children will in imminent lives to follow. We have “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.”

There is a belonging. We belong to this path and it to us. We have put our mark on these lofty trees, the worn bricks, the men, women, and children that dwell in the houses. The crossing has also left its indelible stamp on each of us that have walked this way. We are touched through our senses, by our memories, and in our hearts. It has been thirteen years since I have made this routine journey on foot. I don’t seem to notice as much about it as I used to now that I travel it in my truck. I do think about it quite often though. Excuse me, I think it’s time that I go and take a walk. I know just the route to take.

  Take a look at a page from Jeanette's sketchbook.

Jeanette Leadingham is a graduate student at Shepherd University (Spring 2006).

"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 University (formerly Shepherd College), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. The courses were taught again in Spring 2006 by Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 and 2006 Linda Tate.