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QUINTESSENCE

What Is Is Well

“What will be will be well, for what is is well”
- “To Think of Time,” Stanza 6, Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1882

These are the days of summer that ripen in the hot sun, we are deep in the happy hours. Working in the flower gardens, I take note of the quail perched on the fence post, barking its cat-yowl call, a lazy conversation with the shades of afternoon. The yellow finch darts into the birdbath, the dog is asleep in the grass. And when all the chores of the yard are done, I take my book and read for several hours under the flowering crab tree.

As I watch the yellow finch camouflaged in the birch leaves, I think of the Galapagos Islands and the field notes and research conducted by English scientist and explorer, Charles Darwin. Darwin’s ideas, the foundation of modern theories of genetic evolution, evolved in part from his fascination with the island’s population of more than fifty species of finch. Darwin made detailed studies and hand-drawn illustrations of the precise, often subtle differences among finches observed in neighboring geographical locations throughout the islands. The finch populations in Galapagos had evolved minute and diverse capabilities for mining the available sources of food and shelter: some with long bills for drinking nectar from trumpet bell-shaped flowers, others with short, sharp beaks for hunting insects. I wondered about the way we evolve as humans in the pursuit of happiness. Do we develop different strengths and skills depending on our communities, our opportunities?

The line of Walt Whitman’s prose poem, “To Think About Time,” seems to speak to the long view to me. While time must be lived forward, and understood in retrospect, we understand our evolution contemplating the whole. A life is more than moments lived. It is also the song of the times, the hunt of the dreamer. What is, is as it should be Whitman seems to say, because if a life exists, it is sustained by a natural order of things. When we doubt the journey, question ourselves, what we observe about the world is the foundation of our thoughts about life itself. Whitman reminds us, “The soul is always beautiful/ the universe is duly in order, every thing is in its place/What has arrived is in its place and what waits shall be in its place.”
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