The Carol and Emily Project
“Beauty- be not caused-It Is-“
I ardently agree with Emily that beauty simply IS, its cause unidentifiable. Of course the beauty we are both referring to (and I’m assuming, since I can’t ask her) is the natural untouched beauty of the earth and all things natural in it. But it might also be the beauty we each see through our own particular lenses that could be referenced here. The judgement of beauty is said to be “in the eye of the beholder”* therefore existing in our individual minds, and I don’t disagree.
When a tree falls in the woods and no person is around to hear the noise made, the sound still occurred and existed. Similarly, I have proposed that an unviewed object’s beauty is not lessened by the fact that it goes unviewed. Unappreciated, yes, but still, its “beauty IS”.
There are so many types of natural beauty in the world that we could begin an adventure to seek them all out, and never complete the journey, for it abounds everywhere. In my humble opinion, that’s exactly how we should live our lives though, hunting for the beauty in everything, everywhere, consciously, all the time. In some ways, and sadly increasingly, it’s actually a basic and necessary survival skill, given the fact that all kinds of ugliness coexists in our world as well.
Emily never ventured far from her home to seek beauty, but she sought it out all around her and appreciated its myriad of expressions in nature and in the written and spoken word. I think I’ll follow her example.
*Most sources attribute the first use of the modern-day expression to Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (née Hamilton) who wrote a number of books under the pseudonym of “The Duchess,” and, in her 1878 work Molly Bawn, wrote “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“I Started Early- Took My Dog-“
If you Google Emily Dickinson and ocean poems, #656 is the first search result you will get. In it, she goes on a walk with her dog to the sea. Although Emily did travel outside of Amherst during a few years of her life, by all accounts, records, and letters left behind, she never actually saw the sea. Emily did have a beloved Newfoundland named Carlo though, presented to her by her father in 1849. Her devoted and constant companion, Carlo would die in 1866 and leave Emily feeling adrift.
Although far from well-traveled and being known for her reclusive nature, Emily’s imagination and knowledge allowed her to go many places in her mind. One Hundred and thirty-two years after the first posthumous publication of her work, we are lucky to go along with her as we read her words and continue to be delighted and mystified by them.
I do live near the sea and go often. It has always been “my place”. The following is what came to me yesterday as I sat with paper and pen and watched the tide come to kiss the shore.
“Sweet Hours Have Perished Here”
Today’s first line comes from one of the earliest collections of Emily’s poetry published in 1896, 10 years after Emily’s death, by Mabel Loomis Todd, a family friend and also the mistress of Emily’s brother, Austin. Thomas H. Johnson published the entirety of Dickinson’s poems in 1955 and numbered them according to his judgment of chronology.
The original poem is just four lines and is said to be about her bedroom, where she spent most of her life and where the shadows certainly would have increased as she faced ill health in her last days.
I took the first line and reflected on my childhood, when books and writing were personal havens for me. Long after I should have been, I could almost always be found under the covers writing or between the covers of a book, being whisked off to an imaginary place I was reading about, or coveting some snippet of knowledge I had to sneak to learn. Indeed, it was my happy place and the hours that passed on there were never mourned.
From March- August you can even spend an hour or two in Emily’s own “mighty room”, which has been preserved in the Dickinson family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Click this link for details. (It’s definitely on my Post-Covid Bucket List!)
Wishing You A Happy New Year!
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
– Emily Dickinson
The first stanza of this poem is one that is well known. What I get from this collection of Emily’s words is that Hope doesn’t cost a thing. Granted, the cost of fulfilling those hopes might take more than wishful thinking, but no matter our station in life, we can all afford the miniscule cost of giving another soul hope.
Because it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’ve got other projects calling my name, I’m not going to write my version of Emily’s poem #254 today. I’m going to cross over to my other blog and share my wish for all of you, that as you leave 2021 behind and enter into 2022, you take these words to heart, knowing that you were made for joy.
Peace and Love
“Before the ice is in the pools”
If you search for Emily Dickinson Christmas poems, your search won’t take too long. Number 37 is the only one I have found that mentions it.
Before the ice is in the pools —
Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall
Is tarnished by the snow —
Before the fields have finished,
Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder
Will arrive to me!
What we touch the hems of
On a summer’s day —
What is only walking
Just a bridge away —
That which sings so — speaks so —
When there’s no one here —
Will the frock I wept in
Answer me to wear?
J#37 Emily Dickinson
Not that Emily didn’t love the Christmas season. She was known far and wide for making and gifting her famous Black Cake during the holidays. It actually sounds delicious and I’m vowing to try my hand at it next year. Here’s a link for the recipe if you’re interested but be forewarned that the baking time is 3 -3 and 1/2 hours, low and slow!
I took a different path with the poem, as I always do, and incorporated a little science into mine. If you don’t remember the exact specifics of E,T,C, and P of the water cycle then now would be a good time to refresh your memory.
It’s also the perfect time for me to thank you for reading and following me on this Emily and Carol journey. Wishing you and yours all the very best this holiday season and always.
Peace and Love
“It Troubled Me As Once I Was”
191 years ago today, Emily Dickinson was born. How amazed would she be to know that her words would survive and become such a legacy to the world? As a little girl, she was the first of many poets I would come to admire and treasure, poets that would inspire me and make me marvel at the mystery of it all, as well as the magic created by mere consonants and vowels put together in just the right way to reveal entire astonishing worlds.
As we celebrate her life today, I imagine that being the introvert that she was, like me, she would at times find a celebrated public life tedious.
The first poem I ever memorized was her #600:
One of the many ways I relate to Emily is in the comfort found in nature, wherein lies a soothing solace, a buzzing energy, and an all-encompassing mystery that one desires fervently to live in and write about. Emily had her gardens. I have the oceans and the multitudes of life they hold. We have both found inspiration and understanding through the act of writing.
From Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which Emily attended at 16, she wrote to a friend at home,
Emily refused to be part of the flock. For her failure to accept the veneer of things, she was dubbed by the principal of the school to be one of the “No hopers”, the group of girls who were labeled as having no hope of salvation. I would venture to guess that quite a few of my own teachers had me on a similar list.
Maria Popova in The Marginalian writes of Emily Dickinson:
Peering through “the pinhole of surprising” or “telling it slant” is something Emily was quite adept at, as in poem #1263 she writes;
Being the skilled poet that she was, she didn’t seek “define” the truth, which opened the window of understanding and connection to readers who each approach it via different circuits and on their own terms. As an adult, I’ve come to understand that we do not all share the same truths, nor should we be expected to and as writer I hope to accomplish the same thing Emily did in her poems.
From an early age Emily broke with convention, not accepting the traditional role and conventions that women of her time were expected to adhere too. Veering off road like that can sometimes be a painful and solitary trek, something I can personally attest to. But doing so also allows for individuality and maximum growth, which I explore in my alteration of poem #600.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY DICKINSON
How the World Holds Together: Patti Smith Reads Emily Dickinson’s Poetic Premonition of Particle Physics – The Marginalian