Thursday, May 13, 2010


I have just finished my Emily Dickinson book, some poems, some letters. Mary bought it for me last year - it was part of my birthday present - there were many, many books in that lot, all good, and most of which, I'm sorry to say, I've taken my time to come to, while I read the old books over and over again. Books, to me, are friends. Some of them become good friends. Some of them, it takes time to make friends with.

I'm into my fourth reading of The Waves. It took me a long time to make friends with that one, and to slow down sufficiently to let its beauty wash all over me.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Emily. Not her poems, but her letters. It's hard to believe she was a recluse, reading her letters. They were so loving and affectionate and even when in the deepest affliction (like the deaths of her father and mother) she still found time to write to those who had expressed their love and sympathy and nothing she said ever seemed cliched. It was always fresh.

And I think of the cards we send now, with prepackaged sentiments, or the trite emotions we express (you could probably get them off a Cyrano-type website for every occasion). But even the Hallmark sentiments or Cyrano letters are better than what we usually offer in such cases. Maybe a Facebook comment on a status update. Most times, not even that.

Funny thing is, the more connected we have supposedly become (what with the social networking sites, the God Almighty mobile phone, to say nothing of email) the further apart we have drifted. I felt more real emotion in any one of Emily's letters, whimsical, brilliant, sweet - than in a dozen prepackaged sentiments...but you will say, she was a genius, of course she could write like that.

She didn't know she was a genius. She was just a very plain, reclusive woman, unsung for the most part, loved by those who knew her, who wrote from the heart. And who took the time to write from the heart.

So maybe, with all our avenues for instant communication, we lack the time, (or maybe the wherewithal) to form a single coherent thought. To put thought into a letter, or a card, to write out an address (or even know the address in the first place, who cares about addresses these days), walk to the nearest post office, affix a stamp on the envelope and post it.

The rhythms of life have changed. The currents of our heart have changed.

So there is no peace, no peace anywhere. Just the stormy drums, the discordant blare of the traffic, the boom boom boom of regress and the dissolving into a million fragments.

I want to live with herbs and flowers, and die, when I die, whole.

No comments: