How may I adequately describe the idyllic feeling within me Saturday, when I spent several hours sitting underneath a tree in Emily Dickinson’s yard, writing and simply being there without concern for anything except being present?
I don’t know that I can, quite frankly.
I am reminded of Emily’s first letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. He actually used these words of hers in an article in The Atlantic Monthly, giving her full credit.
She wrote, “Mr. Higginson – Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?
The mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly, and I have none to ask.
Should you think it breathed, and had the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude.”
On this visit, I felt her verse, her words, her life, her being - fully alive, still, as I sat in her garden to write.
This was not the first time I visited Emily’s home.
I first visited on April 1, 2010 – the first day of National Poetry Month of that year. I was so excited I could barely stand it or myself. Look at my effervescent face from that day. Can you read the bliss?
That year we couldn’t go inside her house because of a roof collapse, but we got to explore the garden and take a tour of her brother’s home which is on the same property.
My second visit was April 16, 2011 with my friend, Ann, who drove down from Vermont and all three of my children. We were able to tour the Dickinson home and then played on her lawn for an hour or so. If you are ever near Amherst, take the time to take the tour. I have been on many author’s home tours, but not any reaches the quality of this one.
The tour guides are the best and the final room allows participants to explore Emily’s creative process. What a treasure!
I loved reading a letter she wrote to her friend, Abiah Root, where she speaks of sitting on the stairs in front of her home, chatting with their mutual friend, Mattie, before walking her home. My children and I loved sitting here, too.
This time I had no agenda except I wanted to write and I was hoping someone would take a photo of me writing there. It meant a lot to me to have this occasion documented. I didn’t go on the tour this time but I did purchase a book that included some of Emily’s letters.
It was a temperate Autumn afternoon, a day I am sure Emily would have enjoyed either from her window or from the garden. Many people don’t know but she was quite a botanist as well as a poet. She sketched and labeled and searched out plant life. Her family built a herbarium which she writes about in her letters. An aside: I wonder if having the herbarium to enjoy nature is one of the reasons she started staying sequestered inside her home?
I started my writing on a bench and then moved to sitting under a tree. Peace lived in my pen and in my breath. Words are woefully inadequate.
Two girls were passing by, across the backyard and I said, “Excuse me, may I ask a rather strange favor?”
We became fast friends. I handed one girl my camera and one girl my phone (with a camera) and soon they were snapping away as I wrote. My sole request: “Please get the house in the photo. I want it to be more about Emily then me.”
I went on, admitting to them this was a dream of mine, to write here.
I don’t know if I would have felt such presence within me if I wasn’t so well “acquainted” with Emily. I felt blissful, quiet, reflective and content. It reminded me somewhat of what it felt like after I gave birth to my children. It felt like taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out of my lungs, gently.
It was like realizing a long-time love has indeed gotten better and better as time has passed.
Look at the difference in my face on this day from my face on the first day I visited.
Remarkable, isn’t it?
Thanks to Emily, I will be looking at my writing from a different perspective now. I will ask, “Is my verse alive?” and “Are my words alive?” and “Am I fully alive?”
Thank you again, dear Emily. Thank you.
Please watch my blog as I write about my other adventures with writers from the 19th Century.
Follow me on Twitter: @JulieJordanScot
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Julie Jordan Scott