21 The gentian weaves her fringes

Written in late summer of 1858, found on the last page of Fascicle I – I think we have about ten left in this one before moving to Autumn. This poem is a celebration of natural beauty –

 

The Gentian weaves her fringes –
The Maple’s loom is red –
My departing blossoms
Obviate parade.

[Emily Dickinson]

The Gentian and Maple don’t question, choose, or hide their colors or shapes – they simply are. As people, as women or men – as humans – we are blossoms; beautiful as is, without makeup or fancy clothes or a thousand instagram followers. Our truest beauty lies in the simplicity, the purity of our existence, and walking in this truth renders all pomp and circumstance superfluous.

Remember – you are beautiful. Simply, purely as you are.

Love –

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17 It’s all I have to bring today

This lovely ditty was written in the summer of 1858. Ah, the moments when the heart is so full, it’s all there is –

 

 

It’s all I have to bring today
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – sh’d I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

[Emily Dickinson]

We are so enough. Let’s relish the fullness of life.

Love –

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14 As if I asked a common alms

Written 1858, but transcribed into a few letters throughout the years. In one letter she prefaces it with the line, “I have no Saxon, now,” as if to say that words fail her but only poetry – another language, another form of expression entirely – can convey her ineffable feeling. A lovely way to express deep, overwhelming gratitude –

 

As if I asked a common Alms,
And in my wondering hand
A Stranger pressed a Kingdom,
And I, bewildered, stand –
As if I asked the Orient
Had it for me a Morn –
And it should lift it’s purple Dikes,
And shatter Me with Dawn!

[Emily Dickinson]

Love –

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My Emily Dickinson

Last year I had the privilege of spending an entire semester studying Emily Dickinson. I was skeptical at first, knowing little about her apart from her apparent reclusiveness and rumored love affair with a woman. I’d read a poem or two in high school and remembered that she wrote about death, and I know, for most people, the knowledge stops there.

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I spent months reading, studying, and discussing her poems and various letters she’d sent throughout her life, and I left the class feeling that I had made an intimate friend.

Sure, she rarely left the house, but with a soul like hers, why would she? She cared deeply for her family and ran their household in Amherst, playing the piano, tending her garden, and baking the bread. She was also a contemporary of Emerson, but she refused to attend a gathering he attended because she heard his book “was disgraceful.” As an avid reader of Emerson’s essays, I’ve forgiven her for this, but the point is that she was human: a woman with a keen intellect, a playful ability to enjoy and commune with nature, a heart that loved deeply and truly, and a soul that transcended transcendentalism. And this is nowhere more evident than in her poetry. But sometimes it’s easier to read articles about who she was as a person or watch a movie about her life instead of simply listening to her and judging for yourself.

I get it – Emily Dickinson has long been inaccessible.

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With nearly 2000 poems, it’s hard to know where to begin, and many find them confusing and abstruse. In studying her work, I often wished to hear her read them – to see how she would express various lines and dashes and emphases and rhythms. She isn’t alive to do this, but I am, so, starting today, I’ll be reading her poems aloud and posting recordings of my readings. One every day. Almost every day – I’m human, too, after all. With 1,789 poems, this will take me about 5 years, but I could not be more excited. I’ll post them here, on my website, with the date she wrote them and a transcription of the text. I might add a bit of interpretation on some of the more arcane ones, but I hope that you feel your own feelings and have your own ideas. My goal in this is merely to be a vessel for her art. I can only hope that the world will come to know and love her the way I do.

Start here.

Namaste –

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[Legally I think this is okay since all the poems can be found for free online anyway. If it isn’t, let’s have a chat before you go suing me.]

 

Turning Trauma into Beauty

Have you ever looked in the mirror and been displeased? Do you say mean things to yourself? Apologize for taking up space? Constantly berate yourself for the slightest faux pas? These are signs of self-loathing, and maybe that sounds extreme, but the prevalence of these symptoms leads me to ask – why do we hate ourselves?

In writing about the journey of self-love, I’ve been thinking about what the root causes of self-hatred are. Personally, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of traumatic events and words that all shaped themselves into an ugly mass of depression. As I speak with other people about this, the same rings true. The culprit: trauma.

What is trauma? Trauma is something beyond your control that happens to you. Be it rape, an abusive relationship, or the death of a loved one, it creates a victim – you. This can be hard to accept, and it can also be easy to get stuck in. While recognizing your own victimization is a necessary part of healing, living in the victim mentality is not healthy. That mentality has no movement, no growth – it keeps you stuck, stuck in the mindset that things happen to you, that you are powerless.

And we hate ourselves because we become consumed with this thing that happened to us – the ugliness of it – and we take it on. Internalizing that hideous thing occurs when you allow it to define you, and, naturally, you hate the trauma, so you start to hate yourself. But you are not your trauma. Maybe someone raped you, but you are so much more than the girl or guy who got raped. Maybe someone verbally abused you, constantly looking over your shoulder, criticizing every move, but you and I are so much more than the girls and guys who were in abusive relationships. We are survivors – strong women [or men – humans]. And our lives are not defined by the bad things that have happened to us.

Yes, those things happened, and we’ll always carry the things that happened with us. But what will you do with it? Will you let it be a burden, weighing you down with every step, every look, constantly defining your perspective and yourself? Or will you turn it into an asset? Because that is possible. Turn that weakness into strength. Journal, talk to a therapist, explore the roots of your trauma, dig up all the dirt and clean it out.

We reflect what we see in the world and in ourselves. If, when you look at yourself, all you see is the trauma – the ugly thing that happened to you that you have no control over – you will believe that you are ugly. But this is not true. What about your ambition, your strength, your wit, your cute fingers, your bright eyes, your thick hair? Look in the mirror. Smile. Look outside, look at other people, look at yourself and find the beauty in these things. Think of it as a treasure hunt at first, and then, as you practice, the colors of the world get brighter and you’re like Alice in Wonderland, constantly looking around in awe and even checking yourself out in the mirror. Because we live in a beautiful world, and there is beauty in every single one of us. You just have to find it.

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Finding Beauty

I’ve always loved a good view. Standing on top of a mountain, surfing in a tropical inlet, swimming in the ocean under a full moon and a sky full of stars. These are holy moments of awe, silence, oneness with nature, when all I can do is let the clean air fill my lungs as I stare. Speechless. As Ron Burgundy said about the view of San Diego, “Drink it in. It always goes down smooth.” I’ve never been to San Diego, but I can say these words ring true wherever I go.

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A moment in Costa Rica just a few weeks ago. This vista came at the top of a long staircase winding through the rainforest.

Beauty takes my breath away. Unfortunately, I can’t always be hiking mountains or lounging on beaches. Right now I’m finishing university in a place that is too small to be considered a city. While it’s wonderfully close to the mountains and makes me feel like I live in a doll house, the environment is stagnant – a little less than inspiring, especially when fresh snow is hiding spring.

But I still find ways to get my breath taken away. The key is looking for them. It’s harder in everyday life, when I’ve procrastinated writing an essay or skipped a shower. But it’s absolutely possible. A grand view is exponentiated beauty, but beauty can come in smaller forms, too.

I see it in my blender each morning as bananas, oranges, and spinach swirl together. I see it in the way the wind was blowing as the snow fell, so all the trees were covered perfectly on one side. I see it in fluid lines of architecture, or the ivy that covers my house gradually coming back to life. I can always see it in the sky, although these vast expanses of gray are presenting a challenge. I hear it in Florence and the Machine playing through my headphones and in the roar of cars speeding along wet asphalt. Beauty is everywhere.

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Ireland, 2014, I realized my sunglasses actually had a rosy tint.

It’s a mindset, a lens through which I see the world, like wearing rose colored glasses. But it’s not foolish naiveté – it’s childlike awe in the soul of an adult. It’s choosing to see things simply, beautifully, sweetly, training your eyes to dance around mud puddles instead of boring through them. Try it.

Try finding beauty in everything, even something you instinctively think is hideous. I don’t love the worn carpeting of my bedroom floor, but the texture has interesting dimension, and the blend of purple and green is a little enchanting. It takes a sense of humor and a creative eye – things that anyone can cultivate, but it makes a world of difference.

Stay beautiful –

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