If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.Emily Dickinson
She didn’t go far.
She travelled outside her home county of Amherst, Massachusetts just once. Later, she withdraw from society completely, often choosing to speak to visitors through a door rather than face-to-face. When her father died she listened to his funeral from her room upstairs.
Emily Dickinson left behind a vast trove of the most penetrating, insightful, and beautiful poetry the world has ever seen. She enjoyed numerous deep and rich relationships through her prolific correspondence. And she loved. She loved truthfully and fearlessly as was her wont. And even more, she was loved in return, in a time and a place which neither acknowledged nor supported her love.
Emily Dickinson didn’t go far.
She went deep.
When the pearldiver descends into the cool dark of the ocean she must use breath techniques to equalise the pressure in her ears. She must strive to keep her distance from the ever pulling currents. And she must confine her thought to one aim and one aim alone: the finding and the gathering of pearls from the great below.
: a situation in which a person or animal is kept somewhere, usually by force (from the Medieval Latin confinare ‘to restrict within bounds / keep within limits’).
The word ‘confinement’ carries negative connotations, like a raven perching on a priests shoulder.
Like the parable of the old man who sits on the same box day after day begging for silver only to find at the end of his life that his box was filled with gold, confinement and solitude can contain riches and bounties undreamt of by those too habitually busy to consider the offerings proffered in her outstretched hands.
The chance to be still. The chance to reflect. The chance to go deeper. These chances are important. But, like many other important things, they are not given the attention they deserve during the repeated and repeating tornado of the usual day-to-day grind.
But these are not usual days, are they.
Meaningful things take time. It takes time to process. Time to make. It takes time to wonder.
I’ve been wondering a lot lately. I wonder what life will look like after this global pandemic. I wonder how it will change us, for the ill, and for the good.
I wonder what Emily Dickinson would have thought of ‘social-distancing’ or ‘self-isolation’.
I wonder if she’d even have noticed.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.Emily Dickinson
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