Little Signs Everywhere

Spring is here! Well, at least officially on the calendar and definitely here in the South. Lilies and daffodils are stretching their arms, breaking free of their cool earthy beds and peeking up at the Sun. Swollen rivers are heartily flowing as snows melt and the brown ground begins to green. Tree leaves are budding and even the oceans begin to bloom, as waters are being warmed by Spring’s sunny serving of hopeful rays. Legions of Monarch Butterflies are leaving Mexico to begin their transcontinental journey to Canada, stopping to mate and delight us all along the way. Songbirds announce their return to warmer climes as a certain fever sets in and we open our windows to the sweet smells of Spring carrying the wastes of Winter away.

Emily Dickinson was an avid gardener from a young age and according to her letters and poems, an appreciative observer of nature all of her life. Her Herbarium, a collection, of 424 plants and flowers from the Amherst region, which she catalogued, classified and pressed into a leather-bound album, is certainly evidence of that. Dickinson celebrated them in a letter to her friend Abiah Root in 1848 referring to flowers as “beautiful children of spring,” She is said to have viewed nature as her muse, and I imagine that Spring was her favorite season.

“Some keep the Sabbath going to church; I keep it staying at home, With a bobolink for a chorister, and an orchard for a dome.” — Emily Dickinson

Poem #236

Like Emily, I get much of my inspiration from nature. I’m lucky to live on the coast and find much of it on the beach, which I like to say is my church, gym, and community service outlet, where I meditate, read, write, exercise and pick up litter.

Todays Carol and Emily poem celebrates one of the signs of Spring, the Robin.


*View Dickinson’s Herbarium at Harvard Mirador Viewer

The Emily Dickinson Museum

Emily’s Rose

An avid observer, Emily Dickinson began showing an interest in botany when she was 9 years old. She loved to help her mother in the family garden, which contained quite an extensive variety of flowers. When she went away to school at Mt. Holyoke, she was encouraged by the principal and founder of the school to create an herbarium. Emily went on to collect, press and classify 424 flowers from the Amherst region. The leather bound album she pressed and posted them in survived and has been digitized by Houghton Library at Harvard University. You can access it here Harvard Mirador Viewer. You can also tour the Homestead gardens at Dickinson’s family home in Amherst, MA. Although I haven’t yet been, it’s definitely on my “post Covid – when we can finally travel safely again” list of places to visit.

Emily often sent flowers with her letters to friends and family and gifted them on birthdays and occasion of deaths and illnesses. A large number of her poems contain references to them. According to Judith Farr, author of The Gardens of Emily Dickinson, one-third of Dickinson’s poems and half of her letters mention flowers, with the rose taking first place for most mentions. Pictured below is a page from Emily’s Herbarium and today’s Carol and Emily poem, which tells of one particular rosebush that she kept as a secret for herself and the bees.