“I find ecstasy in living — the mere sense of living
Just back from a full tilt literary jaunt with my friend, Janice. I wrote this post sitting on a huge, high bed covered in a cozy crimson-and-green quilt in the romantic “Turret” room in the Amherst Inn, just across the street from Emily Dickinson’s home. From my window, I could see the window of the room where Emily wrote her astonishing poems, often at night by candlelight. Hoping that Emily’s muse was floating nearby, I read some of her poetry and letters by lamplight. In one delightful note to her cousin, John Graves, written in April 1856, she describes what she is observing on a Sunday afternoon while everyone else in her family sits in church. She says, “I’ll tell you what I see today,” and then reveals the wonders of a spring afternoon:
“….And here are Robins — just got home — and giddy Crows — and Jays…. here’s a bumblebee — not such as summer brings — John, ernest, manly bees, but a kind of Cockney, dressed in jaunty clothes… then there are sadder features — here and there wings half gone to dust, that fluttered so, last year—“
Don’t you feel as if you’re right there, sitting beside her, listening to the robins and watching that jaunty, Cockney bumblebee? How alive, aware, and in the moment she is! She even brings the past into the present as she drinks it in when she speaks of “…wings half gone to dust that fluttered so, last year–”
Fleeting, butterfly moments caught in a net of words. It’s just this breathtaking, in-the-moment immediacy that Emily’s poetry offers us: “Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul,/And sings the tune without the words,/And never stops at all.” Can we be as awake, as alive as Emily? Can we “find ecstasy in living” and bring her sense of awe to our writing?