I found myself standing in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom.
I was in Amherst to attend a conference of food cooperatives and as it ended I made a dash to the Dickinson home, now a museum. All I knew about the poet was her reputation as a famous recluse. Standing in her room, however, I felt an unexpected communion. Maybe it was the knowledge that she had written nearly all of her 1800 poems in that very space, sitting at a little table by the tall window; maybe it was the strong sense of refuge the room conveyed. Here’s a poem of hers tacked to the wall outside the door:
Sweet hours have perished here;
This is a mighty room;
Within its precincts hopes have played,
Now shadows in the tomb.
Noble, somber words. Dickinson was born in the house and died there in 1886, aged fifty-five. My age. Essentially unpublished during her lifetime, she clearly felt a powerful calling. Her subjects were the big ones: love, nature, art, grief, death. Her imagination ranged widely while her body rarely left home. In the room, you could sense her quiet urgency. We have such little time on earth and so much to say, even if our words only serve shadows in the end. What do I want to say about this moment in time?
We’re going to miss it, perhaps.
I walked to Amherst’s small square and made two touristy circumnavigations before settling on a wooden bench. The day was perfect, warm and green. Parents with kids were out. Students drifted by. During conference breaks, a strong desire to go back to school repeatedly struck me – maybe study to be a poet! That’s what I want to say: we need to stay on our toes.
Here’s a selfie. I hope you are well.