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.

And yet.

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.

CONFINEMENT noun

/kənˈfaɪn.mənt/

: 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.

And yet.

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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66 thoughts on “ The Hidden Treasures of Solitude ”

  1. Thank you for this. It reblogged it on my Sirhick site. It has inspired me to find a paper on wrote on Thomas Merton and solitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Solitude provides us with a time to reflect
    As we reflect and engage in introspection we find we may need to run away
    Run away from ourselves and our past and our thoughts and our overthinking and our over analysis and the battle within our minds

    Lockdown
    No more running away
    Isolation and solitude
    to reflect and engage in introspection

    Maybe this time we won’t run away?

    Thank you for your post. As you can see it inspired in me the above little piece of writing.

    Please do continue to write and share with us your posts. Truly amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Exactly. I was just reading Emily’s poems today when I realized she lived her entire life in isolation and loved it. Which isn’t to say she didn’t have her problems. But the raw beauty of her poetry is fascinating. May it inspire us today as we self-isolate and distance ourselves from social activities. After all, a writer’s greatest challenges are interruptions, from within — wandering thoughts — and without — other people. Dickinson’s poems show the beauty of the non-distracted mind and the power of imagination. Now is your chance to withdraw, to unplug, to get off social media, to listen to birdsong again, to take a walk through the woods alone, to read a real paperback novel and get lost in its world, to pick up a pen and notebook and jot down your observations, your reflections, the voice of your soul soaking in the long-awaited silence and solitude.

    Liked by 1 person

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