I’ll never stop being the girl who drags people outside to watch a sunrise or sunset. The power, magic and majesty of each one fill me with the awe of a child, still. My phone is filled with hundreds of photos of them that my husband believes all look alike. But I can see the difference in every one, remembering the time and place each was taken, who I was with, what the air smelled like, and how gravity held me in stillness as I breathed it all in.
In her poem beginning with this line, Emily wonders about many things. It’s about the many wonders of nature, who created them, and of course her immense pleasure in the spectacle of the sun setting. I share in that pleasure. It fills my soul. If even if for a short time, I’m filled with peace and the knowledge that there is always beauty to be found. Life goes on and begins again, every morning, giving new hope to us all.
*When trying to find words rhyming with need, I learned that “mead” is honey wine, sometimes flavored with fruits, spices and grains. The word fits perfectly.
I know it’s not December or Christmastime, but this is the one I chose to share today. Most of us know the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas, but if you’re like me, you don’t know much more than that about it. In researching it this morning I learned quiet a bit. Beginning with the fact that mistletoe is a hemiparasite. Hemiparasites can live off of another plant, but are also capable of living on their own and making their own chlorophyll through photosynthesis. According to Britannica.com, mistletoe also has a storied past in Druid legends, where it is said to have been used in ceremonies of sacrifice and was also believed to have medicinal qualities.
In the 1800’s people corresponded by letter, an act which today we find delightfully surprising because so few do it. Emily was known to frequently send poems to friends and family in her letters to them. She sent her “Mistletoe” poem to her friend Samuel Bowles, the editor-in-chief of the Springfield Republican newspaper and is thought to have personified the rose as herself. I chose to place her in the role of the tree and profess her willingness to let another share herself, something I think she’d willingly submit to in the name of the deep soulful love she seems to have felt for several people, both male and female, in her life.
If you read enough of her work, you’ll soon realize that death is a recurring theme in Emily Dickinson’s poems. Some have found it morbid, but others appreciate the innate curiosity that drew her into philosophizing and speculating about death and an afterlife. Biographers have noted that she grew up living next to a cemetery, which may have started her thinking about the subject. Throughout her life, she was an avid observer of nature and as her poetry reveals, a deep thinker. As a homebody, she certainly had time on her hands to engage in both of those activities.
I don’t write about death a lot, but I will confess to having a preoccupation with True Crime/Murder. I’m a Dateline junkie and have just discovered a great true crime podcast to listen to while I work on the cutting and pasting part of this project. Somehow, I think if Emily were alive now, she’d share my attraction. I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to analyze why I’m drawn to that kind of thing, as opposed to the Hallmark movie genre, but a quick Google of the question tells us that people like me are drawn to the genre because its speaks to the dichotomies of life (good-vs-evil, etc.) and like a haunted house or going to Halloween Horror Nights, we get to experience fear in a safe setting. Makes sense to me.
Emily often wrote about the dichotomies of life and today’s Carol and Emily poem does that too with ecstasy and sorrow, breath and death….
While it’s true that Emily Dickinson is known as a recluse who hardly ever left her parent’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts, she did in fact have several occasions to travel during her lifetime. *At 17, she was enrolled in Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts, spending a year there. Although she professed in letters to love the entire experience, her longing for home was greater. With her father being a Senator in the Whig party, in 1855, when she was 25, she and her sister Lavinia had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC and Philadelphia. Beyond those two trips, it’s believed that Emily never ventured out into the larger world and is said to have been quite content with her life in Amherst, where she never seemed to run out of inspiration.
Fast forward 166 years and that’s pretty close to how long it feels like it’s been since the pandemic brought our travel plans to a halt. Travel is “our thing”. My husband and I love to travel to new places and experience new cultures, foods, and vistas. I retired from teaching in June of 2019 and in the 9 months before the pandemic hit , we were lucky enough to take 3 trips and visit 10 different countries. It literally feels like eons ago, but the memories remain. The sights, smells and sounds live on forever in our minds, like those of our honeymoon 15 years ago in Hawaii, where the air is truly rare. Today’s Carol and Emily project remembers that.
It’s said that before her death, Emily Dickinson made her sister Lavinia promise to burn all her poems and letters. While she did burn some of her letters, Lavinia broke the promise and chose not to destroy the almost 1800 poems that she discovered. How lucky we are that she made that choice and went on with the help of others to see that they were published. Dickinson biographers agree that Emily made very few efforts to be published before her death. After being told that her style was untraditional of the time and just didn’t fit, she may have been discouraged, but even if that were true, it certainly didn’t stop her from writing prolifically.
Could she have had “imposter syndrome”? That evil green eyed monster of a virus that attacks our confidence and tells us that we aren’t good enough at whatever it is that we want to do? I had a serious bout with that this morning as I was trying to choose which Carol and Emily poem to share on today’s post. I probably read 20 different poems and found something wrong with every one of them, even the one I posted below. I know I’m my own harshest critic and the battle not to be is constant and real.
Above my desk , I keep the card I received with my award certificate from the Story Summit last year. It has 4 all important words on it. “You are a writer!” It’s there to remind me on days like this, when I doubt myself, that I really am.
No matter what field or life stage you’re in, the imposter syndrome can slither its way into your brain. The trick is to surround yourself with encouragers and encouragements in whatever form works for you. Emily apparently had few encouragers, but we have to believe that she found encouragements and inspiration everywhere in the rich microcosm of her secluded life. Her 1775 poems tell us that.
A year ago today, I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the first annual Story Summit upon a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. We sailed to the Caribbean for an immersive 5 day mentoring experience with some of the worlds most talented authors, screenwriters, and industry professionals. One week later the world would stop due to COVID-19, but the relationships begun on that trip would not stop. Books would be published, screenplays optioned, and the support and encouragement for all of the participants would continue. I count it as the absolute best thing that happened in 2020.
Since that time, another (COVID safe) summit was held at Cape Cod and a Writer’s School was developed with a wide array of classes and phenomenal teachers. Tonight we’re celebrating our 1st birthday by getting together via Zoom to reminisce, catch up and celebrate the Story Summit and all the learning, joy, success and camaraderie it has brought us.
Today’s Carol and Emily poem speaks of sailed toward dreams and that’s exactly what we were all doing on that cruise, working on our projects and trying to create our own individual future spawns.
Of course no one is cruising now, but whatever your dreams are, I hope you’re sailing (figuratively) towards them.
Emily Dickinson, known by most as only a reclusive eccentric, lived life her own way, just as everyone should. By all accounts, and as her poetry reveals, she was the farthest possible thing from spiritless. Not only did she defy the traditional role of women during her time, but she wrote poetry in her own unique style and by her own rules. Today’s offering speaks for both of us.
No, I’m not referring to the famed Mars rover that just touched down yesterday after a more than 6 month journey. But how amazing is that? I’m talking about the fact that Emily Dickinson continued to prolifically write, even in the face of no real encouragement from her parents or those in the publishing world at the time. Only 7 of her poems were published during her lifetime, but writing was a passion she could not let die, a flower she continued to nurture, a hunger unabated.
I can be really hard on myself at times for not meeting goals I’ve set. Like on this project, where my goal is 5 poems a day and I’m dreadfully behind. But I am pretty proud of the fact that I’ve continued to write publicly for the past 11 years. I have persevered, even when my stats or followers didn’t sky rocket. I’ve been honest about times when the words wouldn’t come, but I’ve never given in to thinking it wasn’t worth it. Even if no one ever read my words, like Emily, I still need to write them.
When I taught 6th grade, I constantly encouraged kids to persevere in the face of difficulty, telling them that quitting was the only way to fail. Like the NASA engineers who had to wait 6 months to see if they would be successful in landing the rover on Mars, we may not immediately know the full impact our words, our art or our work, but we only fail if we stop doing it. So hang in there. I’m rooting for you, and I hope you are for me too.
Here’s today’s offering, which includes a reference to Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle.
Today has just been one of those days. Because I’m trying to “branch out ” and be more creative, I dug out some watercolor colored pencils that I’m not even sure why I have. I’ve never used them before, but they’ve clearly been used at least once so that’s a mystery. I figured if W (former President George W. Bush) could take up painting portraits in his 60s, then I could attempt to paint some simple blue flowers in a grassy green field to accompany mine and Emily’s poem about gentian flowers. I was right! I could attempt it, but my effort would ultimately end up in the trash can. No biggie, none of us can be immediately proficient at everything they try. I’m probably just in need of some quality instruction. I’ll search on You Tube later.
I fumbled around with my scrapbook supplies and finished 3 more project pages before I hit the proverbial wall. Of nothingness. Took a walk, got the blood moving, and still nothing. Got distracted by social media, pulled myself back to business and reworked some poems for another project. I got 3 of 4 poems scheduled for posting on that blog, but for some reason, everytime I tried to preview this one certain poem titled “Words”, the preview would only show the title. It happened again and again despite page refreshes and computer reboots. Any other poem of mine would work, just not that one. So weird. I finally just gave up, turned on a Netflix show, got sleepy and took a nap.
Now, naps aren’t usually my thing because I never seem to wake up refreshed. My husband is the King of Power Naps and wakes up like he’s been juiced and ready to run a marathon. I, on the other hand have had few restorative/delicious naps in my lifetime. Today’s was not one of those and upon awakening, the afternoon had turned dreary-chilly and didn’t contribute anything positive to my mood. Whenever I get like “that” my husband does his SNL Debbie Downer impression, which is really quite good. It always makes me laugh. He always makes me laugh. That’s one of the many reasons I keep him.
Today’s offering to the project contains a little bit of dark humor about a chicken who’d had it with a guinea fowl’s noisiness and begged me to end his suffering…
I love the fact that folks in NOLA are decorating their porches and yards. Seeing them, even from far away through the magic of satellites and video imagery puts a little joy in my heart. No parades this year, but we can still mask up and go get the King Cake, dig out our beads and the red Solo cups and pretend we are just as happy being wherever we are. Personally I’d be happier if this pandemic was over and I could safely travel to hug my kids and grandkids. That in itself would be worthy of a parade!
As it is, I’m extremely happy and grateful that it’s 68 degrees here and that I have power, unlike so many millions across the country today. I’m currently in my home office, listening to my ocean sound machine and just completed 5 more poems for the project.
Speaking of my home office, I had to devise a new system for letting my husband know I’m in the creative zone and shouldn’t be disturbed. Yesterday I got a little finger-tapping- impatient with him when he burst in and started “sharing” something with me while I was trying to write. I did have the door closed, but that was also because we had a service person here about our AC and I wanted to isolate myself.
The good news is that this pandemic has given us lots and lots of together time. The bad news is that this pandemic has given us lots and lots of together time… So, there I sat at my computer desk, listening to him share the details of a frustrating phone call and a few minutes in I started tapping my fingers as if impatient. I swore I didn’t mean to. It just happened, and well, you can imagine the rest. So now I have a new system. If my office door is closed AND has a scrunchie on it, (hearkening back to college days) that means Please Do Not Disturb.
I hope you can think of something to celebrate today. Maybe just that it’s Tuesday and one day closer to the weekend, maybe your kid completed their virtual school session without tears, or maybe you got a vaccine appointment for you or someone you love. Maybe you just kept it together on this 340th day since the US Covid crisis began. Tell Alexa to turn up the tunes and have a little conga line parade in your house.