“Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.”
In the midst of my travels across country almost a month ago, this phrase came to mind after a long day and night of driving and really not making the kind of progress that I wanted. I should have gotten a good night’s sleep after a day of packing and loading and preparing. Instead, I struck out at about 10:00 PM and found myself making frequent rest stops, winding up in Kansas City at 8:00 the following evening, well behind schedule and plainly exhausted.
Leslie was justifiably concerned and upset on the phone. I thought of the above sentence and told her about it. I couldn’t remember where it came from, but as I settled in for about 6 hours of sleep at a Motel 6 east of KC I knew I would be looking it up the next morning.
At about 4:00 AM I got my answer. After waking up, I remembered that this line is part of the Desiderata
, which is a favorite poem that I haven’t mentioned much here. Googling the phrase confirmed this, and also provided a link to information on the poem’s author, Max Ehrmann
. Included in the Wikipedia
entry for the poem is the following:
On August 26, 2010, a bronze statue of Max Ehrmann sitting on a park bench was unveiled in Terre Haute, Indiana, his hometown, with the sculpture done by Bill Wolfe. On a nearby walkway, some lines of the poem are also available to be read by passersby.
Seeing that my planned journey on Interstate 70 would take me right past Terre Haute, I deviated slightly and entered the city on old U.S. 40 in the late morning hours, winding up at the intersection of 7th and Walnut, which is of some note itself to highway buffs as the former intersection of U.S. 40 and U.S. 41.
It is here, situated in the background of this photo, that the small plaza and the bronze likeness of Max Ehrmann has been placed.
likeness is sitting on a park bench with pen and pad in hand, attired in clothing appropriate to the turn of the 20th
century. I noticed at least one group of people come by and pose for pictures on the bench with the sculpture.
Born in 1872, Mr. Ehrmann
studied English, Law and Philosophy at DePauw
, returning to Terre Haute
in 1898 for a brief law career before devoting his time fully to writing. He died in 1945 at the age of 72. Much like Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin, Mr. Ehrmann
was born in the Midwest
just after the Civil War and lived through the enlightened period of the Industrial Revolution, the dawn of broadcast media, two World Wars, and the Great Depression.
chronicles of that age tended toward the spiritual, but he did not achieve widespread notoriety until the Desiderata, which was ‘discovered’ about 20 years after Ehrmann’s
death. The poem is featured prominently in the small plaza, with snippets embedded amongst the brickwork.
The short deviation from my planned route of travel proved most worthwhile – I would have liked to travel more on U.S. 40 before it re-joined I-70 further into Indiana, but elected to try to make up some time. I did conclude my journey with an easy 60-mile drive through the hills of eastern Ohio, on U.S. 22 between Cambridge and Steubenville before it crossed the Ohio into West Virginia, turned into four lanes, and led me to a newer expressway spur past the Pittsburgh airport. I arrived at Leslie’s work just as she was getting done for the day, and we followed each other home.
If you are not familiar with the Desiderata, by all means Google it and look at its myriad online representations, including the way I first heard it, in a spoken word recording by Les Crane
when I was 11 years old. I found something else written by Max Ehrmann
that seems appropriate to starting off a new life in familiar surroundings – hopefully you will get something out of it as well:
A Prayer by Max Ehrmann
Let me do my work each day; and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me, may I not forget the strength that comforted me in the desolation of other times.
May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking over the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming on the margin of a quiet river, when a light glowed within me, and I promised my early God to have courage amid the tempests of the changing years. Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments.
May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit. Though the world knows me not, may my thoughts and actions be such as shall keep me friendly with myself.
Lift up my eyes from the earth, and let me not forget the uses of the stars. Forbid that I should judge others lest I condemn myself. Let me not follow the clamor of the world, but walk calmly in my path.
Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope.
And though age and infirmity overtake me, and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me still to be thankful for life, and for time’s olden memories that are good and sweet; and may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still.
Have a great week ahead.