Friday, June 14, 2013


__________________________________ Her House

________________ Creamy quiet rooms
____________________ filled with light ––
________________ Sparsely furnished rooms 
____________________ filled with light ––
________________________ almost black
________________ An island here and there ––
____________________ polished wood ––
________________________ darkly gleams.

________________ Beeswax and bureau scarves ––
____________________ echoes of lavender from Before ––
________________________ captured in a drawer.

________________ A solitary bee
____________________ for company.

________________ A dainty Hitchcock chair ––
____________________ a skeleton in black
________________________ against the light ––
________________ A churchyard framed in white ––
____________________ crisp unspotted white.

________________ A stillness so pure
____________________ one could hear
________________________ the waltzing whir
____________________________ of moth wings ––
____________________ Somewhere
________________________ in the attic.

~ FreeThinke, The Sandpiper, (1994)



A Pilgrimage to Amherst’

The great American poet, Emily Dickinson may have died in 1886, but even so she has functioned as the Big Sister I never had –– a soulmate –– a confidante –– and an endless source of empathy and inspiration since I discovered her in a high school English class at the age of 14.

I once made a pilgrimage to visit Emily's House and her grave in Amherst. It was March. Snow still lay on the ground. The house was closed to the public, but that turned out to be an advantage. I had the property all to myself, and derived a remarkable sense of oneness with its former inhabitant from walking around her snow-encrusted garden, gazing up at her window. Contemplating which of the trees had been there when she still walked the earth. Quoting her poetry aloud –– and some of mine. Thanking her. Praying for her.

I spent hours there absolutely transfixed. I was in tears much of the time, but it felt good. Probably the closest thing I've ever had to a mystical experience.

If anyone had observed me, they undoubtedly would have thought me insane –– possibly dangerous. Fortunately, I was alone –– a Great Gift. Solitude can make it easier to touch the Heart of Reality more than Confrontation –– or merely pleasant social interaction.

As sunset approached I walked the short distance to her grave –– a modest affair that took me some time to find –– and there I told her once again how much she meant to me. Then I thanked her, and left.

Dinner at The Lord Jeffery Inn –– a place I had known and loved with my parents in my pre-Kindergarten days –– helped bring me back to earth, although the place had remained remarkably unchanged in the nearly-sixty years since I had seen it last, and for a tremulous moment I felt I could see my pretty young mother in her yellow linen suit from Bonwit-Teller's standing next to her suitcase in black and white hound's tooth-checked leather trimmed with light brown alligator skin, and my handsome father in his Glenn Plaid double-breasted suit checking in at the counter.

Another emotional moment, but the excellent dinner I had there proved a comfort, and brought a welcome sense of closure to the experience I'd had that remarkable day.

"Much madness is divinest sense ... " she said. I cannot fail to agree.



8 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to visit The Homestead, Emily Dickinson's home. Alas! I probably never shall now!

    When I got a Kindle Fire last year, one of the first things I obtained was The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson. A treasure -- and free at Amazon!

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  2. She has always been my inspiration since I first read her when I was 11 years old.

    What a beautiful tribute.

    Many years ago I saw Julie Harris as "The Belle of Amherst" in an unforgettable performance.

    Your readers may also enjoy THIS.

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  3. "If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
    "

    - Emily Dickinson

    ReplyDelete
  4. FT, you really should ban anonymous posts.

    Have to say I never developed a taste for Dickinson. Never understood how someone could live through the Civil War and completely ignore it.

    No, make mine Walt Whitman.
    More metrical variety also.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, Ms Shaw, for your contribution. I was familiar with the information in thatlink, although I don't think I ever knew precisely what flowers Emily cultivated in her garden.

    It's good to have Miss Dickinson's complete works published exactly as she wrote them, of course, but I could never say that Mabel Loomis Todd and Thomas Wentworth-Higginson did her too great an injustice, although TWH was obviously blind to the true value of the work, as was Mr. Aldrich of the Atlantic Monthly.

    There was an assumption at the time that men naturally knew better than women -- an assumption our Emily may have gone along with to too great an extent, I think.

    I'm reasonably certain, however, that had Miss Emily known her work was to be widely published, she, herself, would undoubtedly have wanted to make extensive revisions, refinements and corrections.

    The person to whom we should all give thanks,of course, is Vinnie. She may never have understood her sister, but she at least had the good sense to realize the great raft of "private papers" she discovered after her sister's death might be worth preserving for Posterity.

    A lesser person might simply have burned them "out of respect for her sister's privacy" -- a fairly widespread custom at the time.

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  6. Ducky,

    I'm glad you like Walt Whitman. I do too, although I am not enamored of him to the extent I am with Miss Dickinson. So what?

    We are all entitled to our preferences. That's why we have chocolate and vanilla, etc.

    What puzzles me about you, however, is why you always feel compelled to register a negative opinion of designated topics? You did so here today -- albeit in a milder-than-usual way -- but telling us you didn't care much for ED, and much preferred WW is still an essentially negative comment.

    It's so YOU! ;-)

    Anyway, comparing ED with WW is tantamount to a comparison between 18th-century Cantonware and early 19th-century Rose Medallion -- or between mahogany and teakwood. It's fine to prefer one over another, but not to state that one is necessarily better than the other.

    I prefer Rookwood pottery to Roseville pottery, though I'm not overly fond of pottery, unless it's antique Quimper. All three qualify as pottery to be sure, but that's the only real basis for comparison between them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Can't help it, FT. I don't put Dickinson in the pantheon.

    I did not say that I find her without merit but I stick by my Civil War comment.

    Of course if I posted something by Philip Larkin I'd garner all kinds of accusations as I have in the past.
    Let's forget "Japanese films which no one in their right mind would watch".

    We're both opinionated, FT.

    ReplyDelete
  8. No, my dear Ducky. You are opinionated -- bigoted would be the better word. I merely have discriminating tastes and preferences. ;-)

    You are also a master of insinuating intelligent-but-irrelevant remarks into the conversation. You delight in making every effort to change the subject to one of your choosing.

    If I wrote an article extolling the virtues of French Nouvelle Cuisine, you would undoubtedly start talking about the superior virtues of being a Vegan or following a macrobiotic diet.

    If I tried to discuss the subtle differences among Shiitake, Porcini, Morel and Portobello mushrooms, and how best to bring out the unique flavor of each, you would doubtless start talking about the deadly dangers of eating poisonous fungi, or something of the kind.

    I guess you can't help it, but you are an inveterate OPPOSITIONIST. Most would prefer to use the term contrarian, but you are a dedicated follower of the cult of OPPOSITIONISM.

    ReplyDelete

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