Happy Birthday Emily

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

I’ve been sitting here for far too long trying to write an opening sentence that conveys just how important Emily Dickinson is to me. Considering that I’m talking about a poet who wrote in short and honest sentences perhaps it’s appropriate for me to say just this: There is no poet who I’ve found more accessible, more moving or more applicable to my life than that great Amherst spinster.

Throughout various drafts of this post I’ve had to keep going back and changing all references to Emily Dickinson’s life from present tense to past tense. I think this is because Emily doesn’t feel dead to me. When I read and think of Emily her life and words feel so relevant to my immediate life that it’s like we’re in a conversation. Her writing connects to my depression, speaks to my religion and asks the same questions about the world. Having her on my bookshelf feels the same as having one of my best friends always and constantly available to answer the anxious texts I send at midnight.

I live just one town over from where she lived and part of me feels like I should get schlep through this Autumnal mist over to her house or grave but I really don’t want to. And I don’t think Emily would want me to either. As I interpret it, Emily’s life and writing was about self-determination, about authentic expressions of emotions. Rather than dragging myself over to Amherst I’d rather stay in my burrow and experience my appreciation of Emily in my most honest way.

According to the tour guide from my visit to Emily’s house this photo was taken shortly after the teenage Emily had recovered from a serious illness that left her weak and thin. Wouldn’t you love for the one picture everyone knew after your death to be one of you as a teenager following a physically exhausting sickness? Supposedly Emily didn’t like it and her family didn’t consider it the best depiction of her.


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