How to Sing Your Ecstatic Song (Tom Ashcraft + Walt Whitman)

(Video link HERE.)  Over the many years we’ve known artist, naturalist and radio astronomer Tom Ashcraft, he has been quietly, patiently, closely observing the world through microscopes, night vision cameras, audio recorders, telescopes and the special cameras he keeps trained on the sky to record rare atmospheric events. His documentation of fleeting emanations of cosmic light called sprites from his All Sky Observatory in New Mexico has gained him high regard in the scientific community and a good deal of press, as has his art.

Bacteriophage Coin No. 93/Thomas Ashcraft

In this video from PBS series Colores, Tom describes the marvelous heart of his work. (Starting at 3:58; video link here.) He speaks aloud Walt Whitman’s short, beautiful Beginning My Studies as though the words were his own. It made the poem come alive for us.

Beginning my studies, the first step pleas’d me so much,

The mere fact, consciousness—these forms—the pow-
         er of motion,

The least insect or animal—the senses—eyesight;

The first step, I say, aw’d me and pleas’d me so much,

I have never gone, and never wish’d to go, any farther,

But stop and loiter all my life, to sing it in ecstatic songs.


Tom Ashcraft

What we love most is Tom describing just how this “ecstatic song” resonates in his own work:

I think that guided Whitman in his loving acceptance of the cosmos. 

…So, if you wanted to bring it back to art, or singing, or poetics, or natural inquiry, there’s a great feeling of love that I have in all these studies. That’s a byproduct, and a blessing.

It’s an engagement with the world, just this blooming, buzzing…this phenomena, this stuff of the cosmos. Why are we here? Why are there these forms?

We’re alive. This is what we experience. From there, it’s the mystery.


Explore Tom’s work at Heliotown.
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