Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where Would I Be Without Emily?

I have always appreciated the poetry and life of Emily Dickinson–especially since I discovered when writing The Pantry that she had a penchant for writing poems in her pantry and kitchen. Today I thought, mmm, I wonder what Emily had to say about spring? She wrote about so many things, often in allegory, that I also like to muse about: the weather, gardens, hope, faith, God-in-nature, birds, beauty, virtues, the presence of God or the spiritual realm, oh so many things. To think that she wrote from her home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where I have been as it is preserved as a museum, without ever hardly leaving it or traveling much further than Boston (and I believe that was only once for medical issues)! Yes, it is possible. The mind is a marvelous thing and Dickinson was the ultimate arm-chair traveler through books and her glorious imagination.

I think of Emily as this Zen-master poetess, beyond time and place, really, ethereal in her earthly presence. Her words are timeless and even transcendent. We are blessed to have them today, thanks to the efforts of her sister-in-law who found them and published them after Emily's early death. Imagine–writing for writing's sake and nothing more? I often wonder if Emily would have embraced blogging or delighted in the anonymity of posting on other blogs. I'm almost certain she would have preferred email to the phone, however a voluminous correspondent she was in her day. She may have Twittered but Facebook would have been too public for her. I don't blame her for wanting her solitude or embracing her home and gardens. I often feel the same way in a kind of self-imposed seclusion, at times. Perhaps she was a reclusive agoraphobic or depressed (or had S.A.D.) or maybe she just got all that she needed from books and her own place in the world.

Here is a poem (812.) that she wrote about spring (I just discovered that the Emily Dickinson Museum has also posted it as their "poem of the week"):
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year

At any other period —

When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad

On Solitary Fields

That Science cannot overtake

But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,

It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know

It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step

Or Noons report away

Without the Formula of sound

It passes and we stay —

A Quality of loss

Affecting our Content

As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament –
~ Emily Dickinson

NOTE: Here is a very early blog, one of my first, written back in the spring of 2005 about Emily Dickinson and her pantry poetry. Part of this blog was turned into an essay on cleaning my kitchen that appeared later that year in Old-House Interiors [I will have linkable PDFs of most of my published writings up very soon at my website.] The photo in this early blog (I am still updating and tweaking early entries with links and minor corrections–these were back in the day when it was more difficult to make formatting changes) is of one of the early, original built-in cupboards from our former historic home in Hancock, New Hampshire (c. 1813). Oh, how I miss that kitchen and my pantries!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Low, How a (Lenten) Rose E'er Blooming

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Old English Carol

This has been an unseasonably cold winter with either constant flurries or enough snow to keep people hunkered in or our kids home from school–a lot. I realize it is all relative to what we were used to in the northeast but when there isn't sufficient salt or snow-clearing equipment to treat the roads, you realize how treacherous a few inches of packed snow-turned-ice can be on a back road. And after a few months of colder-than-usual temps for what are usually balmier winters, and snow upon snow, well, it gets old. Spring will never be so sweet. That said, I do love that we still have four seasons here and that the spring and summer are both longer in duration.

This week I've been taking advantage of the warming weather and have been hiking up our knob almost every day: sometimes with the family and always with the puppies and other fauna. Today I went alone to the top of the knob (remember all of those hay bale images last summer–where it looks like you will fall off of the Earth?) and lay down on the warming ground and just took it all in. The "merry little breezes"swirled about, sometimes gathering leaves up into the air. Remember those in Thornton Burgess' Old Mother West Wind stories? My grandmother shared those books with me and I thought of them today and Burgess' love of nature.

The earth is different in spring: it is warm and fecund, full of promise. The same ground is cooler and more fallow in the fall as the woods release the wet, dank smell of decay. The sun is lowering in the sky and by spring it is climbing higher again. SUN! What a glorious thing it is! I always enjoy the inward time of winter but welcome the sun again like some kind of crazed animal.

So I lay back on the ridge and breathed in the air around me, listening alertly to the few sounds around the knob (where we can see 365 degrees around), and drinking in the sunshine. The animals were playing and lying around or near me, too, and we just all seemed to be in the moment together. When I came down a bit later, I was struck that over an hour had passed. It's not that I had walked that far, all told, but that I had allowed myself to enjoy the space–and place–without interruption or attention to time.

The other day when we all walked together after school, Henry turned to his Dad and said, "We sure do have a nice farm here, Dadda." It made me happy to hear that. I am starting to send out new growth shoots here into the land but to our boys this has probably already become their homeplace. We don't have the dream farmhouse yet, we long ago left the mansion. Ultimately it's not about the four walls but who is within them. A friend of mine said the other day, "Home is always where the people I love are." Like the "home tree" in Avatar, we now connect with each other and with the world from our farm on a ridge in Kentucky. It's been the journey of a lifetime.

IMAGE: In our first winter here, two years ago, we discovered two colors of Lenten roses (helliobores) blooming on the north side of our doublewide. They start to emerge and blossom in late February.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Night

I love the Oscars®.
I've watched them every year since college days, often with girlfriends or my daughter but now even my husband and boys get in on part of the fun (but I still tape them in case I miss anything and that includes the pre-game Barbara Walters show and any follow-up).

We saw Avatar today and I was a bit skeptical about three hours of science fiction (not my favorite genre). I was, instead, moved by the beauty of the cinematography and the interconnected spiritual message. The movie also seems to favor interplanetary harmony and had many messages about occupation and colonization, and an indigenous respect for nature–all quite relevant in today's world. And there was a fantastic, beautiful "Tree Home," center to the plot and the locale of the natives. I came away thinking we all need a protected "Tree Home" in our lives. The allegorical quality to the movie also appealed to me as did the imagination and work it took to create it.

So I won't linger but I'll be back soon this week with more blogs. I've been reinvigorated to write again and have missed the blog world. I've posted an odd self-portrait: part homage to Meryl Streep's hooded cloak in The French Lieutenant's Woman (great English period pic, c. 1980) and to the veiled Roman and Jewish women in Ben-Hur (c. 1959). The aqua scarf is another story and one I want to blog about very soon. In the meantime, here's to Oscar night! My boys just came in with my husband from wood-splitting and have surprised me with pizza. You can't go wrong with that.

PS I'll also be posting several food-related blogs this week, from my recent trip back to New Hampshire, at our book group blog, Cupcake Chronicles. Join the conversation and check us out for some fabulous recipes.