The end.

Went up a year this evening!
I recollect it well!
Amid no bells nor bravos
The bystanders will tell!
Cheerful, as to the village,
Tranquil, as to repose,
Chastened, as to the chapel,
This humble tourist rose.
Did not talk of returning,
Alluded to no time
When, were the gales propitious,
We might look for him;
Was grateful for the roses
In life’s diverse bouquet,
Talked softly of new species
To pick another day.
Beguiling thus the wonder,
The wondrous nearer drew;
Hands bustled at the moorings—
The crows respectful grew.
Ascended from our vision
To countenances new!
A difference, a daisy,
Is all the rest I knew!

~Emily Dickinson
Image by Matej via Pexels.

This is it–the final post of The Emily Project. A little over a year ago, looking forward at the prospect of a fresh, crisp 2019, I wanted to find a book of daily poetry for the year–by a woman. I looked, and looked, and found exactly…nothing. Sure that I was missing something, I complained to my friend Pam. She said, essentially, hang on. When she popped back into our chat, she hadn’t found anything either. But we could create our own poem-a-day blog, she suggested. And so, The Emily Project was born.

When we began, we alternated posts. Sometimes we wrote joint posts as dialogues. I always learned the most from those. Pam is a talented poet, and has a way of seeing all the nuances I miss. After a month or so, we figured out a posting schedule. We really had no idea what we were doing, aside from posting an Emily Dickinson poem a day.

Of course, life intervened, as it does. Sick kids and work schedules and general life drama intervened. The stresses of daily life intervened. I’ve been flying solo on this project since some time in April. Some days I’ve had epiphanies about poems I had read many times but never fully understood. A lot of times, I slapped poems up on the blog with only cursory comments. But the comments were never the point. The idea was to create something that didn’t exist, something that needed to–a “book” of poems by a female poet, with one poem chosen more or less carefully for the day.

Perhaps my biggest achievement of this project was that selection. Some of the poems are the well-known ones, the oft-anthologized ones. But many of them are hidden gems, poems I’d never heard of before. Often these became my favorites. Emily Dickinson’s mind is a weird, wonderful, vast expanse.

I’m still reflecting on this project–I probably will be for a long time. I’m a slow processor. I’ve also never been good at daily endeavors–the kind of continuous practice many people engage in, in which they do A Thing every. single. day. I admire these people and their practices. I’ve just never been good at this stuff. I let everything else get in the way. Maybe it’s because I’m a slow processor–doing something Every Single Day doesn’t always allow me the time I need to mull over a day’s doings. I’m not sure. I’m still processing that, too.

I didn’t always post poems on time. Sometimes I’d have to backtrack several days at a time. This post, which should have been December 31st’s, is getting written at 11:50 p.m. on January 1st because I got massively sick to my stomach just in time for New Year’s Eve. My excuses are not always so good. But. The important thing is this: this blog now contains an Emily Dickinson poem for each day of the year.

I am grateful for the roses in life’s diverse bouquet. And I am only 23 hours and 59 minutes late in posting this last post, dangit.

Happy New Year! Thanks for joining me at whatever point on this journey.

Esoteric time

’T WAS later when the summer went
Than when the cricket came,
And yet we knew that gentle clock
Meant nought but going home.

’T was sooner when the cricket went
Than when the winter came,
Yet that pathetic pendulum
Keeps esoteric time.

~Emily Dickinson

So much human thought is devoted to time, which bemuses me, since time is something we’ve constructed. We invented it, and then got ourselves all bent out of shape over it. We talk about time management, worry about it, pay people to do it for us. And yet we never quite seem to fully understand it. We’ve created a creature that’s grown beyond our understanding. Esoteric indeed.

Autumn is almost here. Monday is the Autumn Equinox. The sun will cross the equator and we will cross into the dark side of the year. We will celebrate the darkness at Halloween, and then in December we will light a hundred thousand million lights to try to hold it back.

Our relationship with time is a fascinating one.

Darkest before dawn

WHEN night is almost done,
And sunrise grows so near
That we can touch the spaces,
It ’s time to smooth the hair

And get the dimples ready, 5
And wonder we could care
For that old faded midnight
That frightened but an hour.

~Emily Dickinson

The morning sky is tinged deep blue. Dawn hasn’t yet breached the eastern horizon. The balance is just beginning to tilt toward autumn. Days are shortening. It seems to happen so quickly–a month ago, wouldn’t the sun have risen by now?

I find myself growing impatient for the sunrise. Suddenly, somehow, we are already in that part of the year when sunlight begins to seem precious, a resource not to be wasted for a second. Though the fall equinox is still weeks away, autumn hovers on every shaft of golden afternoon light, plays in the golding leaves of the walnuts and the brown-crinkled edges of the oaks. The fawns who were born in the woods this spring are losing their sun-dapple spots–they won’t need them when the leaves have fled and the sun is scarcer.

Soon the sun will rise and night will slip away into the busy forgetfulness of day. Soon the heat of summer will be a memory only.

Dews & sands

Angels in the early morning
May be seen the dews among,
Stooping, plucking, smiling, flying:
Do the buds to them belong?

Angels when the sun is hottest 5
May be seen the sands among,
Stooping, plucking, sighing, flying;
Parched the flowers they bear along.

~Emily Dickinson

Over the past few weeks, our weather here in the Shenandoah Valley has fluctuated wildly, as per usual. The oppressive heat of August finally broke toward the end of the month. Storms lashed the mountains, spilling rain over the blue slopes of the Alleghenies.

Now the temperature is climbing again. The skies cleared by rain a day or two ago are clotted with white clouds piling on top of each other. (Sometimes, when I squint my eyes just so, I can imagine that the towering clouds are mountains, unbelievably tall, dwarfing the planet itself.)

Hurricane season is well underway, and it is strange to think that in this oppressive heat, a storm is barrelling down on us. The winds and rain in the Atlantic will strike us, dissipated a good bit, by the end of this week, tearing the first-golding leaves from walnut trees and flinging them in a damp scatter across still-green grass.

Autumn is coming. The flowers that are dew-soaked in the morning will soon be parched, or storm-torn. The wheel of the year spins on.

I learned its sweetness right

I had a daily bliss
I half indifferent viewed,
Till sudden I perceived it stir,—
It grew as I pursued,

Till when, around a crag,
It wasted from my sight,
Enlarged beyond my utmost scope,
I learned its sweetness right.

~Emily Dickinson

Yesterday evening, we took a walk around the field and through the woods. The stifling August heat of the past weeks had dissipated suddenly, and though it was still deep summer, the cool tinge in the air foreshadowed autumn. These are precious days, these days of aging summer. The garden pours forth a bounty, the bees cluster in the hive entrances, fanning away the day’s heat, and the leaves have not yet begun to turn, but there is a feeling of waiting that hangs in the air.

Yesterday, for the first time, it felt as if autumn was possible. Suddenly it felt right to be back in school. The year circles back around.

This is the first year in twelve years that I’ve gone back to school full-time. When Thing 1 was born, I finished out the few remaining months of the school year and then quit my full time teaching job to stay home with him. Then Thing 2 came along. I continued tutoring and teaching part time, in addition to stints at other work, but I haven’t gone back to full-time teaching until now.

It’s a mixed bag, for me. I love the students. I love the small school where I teach. My colleagues are wonderful. The energy of school is exciting, stimulating, fun. But I’ve given up my old every-other-day schedule, where I alternated full days of teaching with full days at home to write.

It’s a difficult transition. Full days around lots of people are completely exhausting. Writing time has shrunk from 7:30-4:30 every other day to an hour in the evening. I knew this would be hard. I’m feeling now just how challenging it is. And I’m looking back at those long writing days, those vast swaths of free time–to write, but also to ramble the woods and fields when the ideas wouldn’t come, to indulge in the soul-filling work of daydreaming, to have another cup of tea.

I think part of what’s so rich about autumn, what makes it the season of magic, is its complexity. It’s a season of harvest but also of loss, of richness and of letting go, of bounty and the certainty of future privation. This seems like a fitting poem for a late summer day as I look forward into a new season, a new normal, and allow myself a little grace to mourn what’s left behind.

The sun’s leaving

The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.


She felt herself supremer,—
A raised, ethereal thing;
Henceforth for her what holiday!
Meanwhile, her wheeling king


Trailed slow along the orchards
His haughty, spangled hems,
Leaving a new necessity,—
The want of diadems!


The morning fluttered, staggered,
Felt feebly for her crown,—
Her unanointed forehead
Henceforth her only one.

~Emily Dickinson

Getting caught up on a zillion neglected things this Memorial Day weekend, so today’s post is just a poem and the sun setting over the Alleghenies. Here’s to sun-filled days and starry nights!

In which we disagree about childhood

Softened by Time’s consummate plush,
How sleek the woe appears
That threatened childhood’s citadel
And undermined the years!


Bisected now by bleaker griefs,
We envy the despair
That devastated childhood’s realm,
So easy to repair.

~Emily dickinson

I’m going to have to take issue with The Myth on this one. Well, not so much take issue as offer an opposing viewpoint. The world is full of adult humans who would no doubt agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed in this poem: when we’re children, we experience griefs and woes and setbacks that seemed enormous at the time, but now, in retrospect, are enviable in their simplicity, their relative mildness, to what we experience as adults.

But here’s the thing–I suspect that those adults who look back on childhood as some sort of golden age are the grownups who’ve forgotten what it was like to be a child. Perhaps childhood’s griefs–at least for the privileged some of us–are not as “serious” as adulthood’s, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less important or impactful. The storms that rock our childhoods mattered every bit as much then as adult ones do now, and they probably shaped us more, occurring as they did in our formative years.

How can anyone quantify anyone else’s grief, anyone else’s hardship? I frequently hear people–okay, women, it’s almost always women–comparing their griefs and losses to other people’s and concluding that other people have it worse, that they themselves should shut up and just be grateful. But there’s no yardstick for grief. We feel it how we feel it. And when we are children, we feel it keenly. It molds us, carves us, lathes us into what we will become. Childhood’s griefs are no less important that those of adulthood, no less “serious” just because they may appear lesser in magnitude to things that seem important to adults.

Adults too often have forgotten what’s truly important. It’s as if a veil settles over our eyes, clouding our vision of the world. We begin to accept that it’s the things of adulthood that matter, forgetting that entire world of childhood, the world that makes us. Childhood’s griefs are not necessarily “easier to repair”–I’d argue that they’re harder. There is no going back.

So, for all the grownups out there who remember what it was like to be a child, who consciously and eternally hold within their adult shells the children they were (and still are), I see you. Your childish griefs matter. They were real, and they are real. Don’t forget what it was to be a child. The children who have not yet hardened into adults need you to remember.

Spring springs eternal

A LADY red upon the hill
Her annual secret keeps;
A lady white within the field
In placid lily sleeps!


The tidy breezes with their brooms
Sweep vale, and hill, and tree!
Prithee, my pretty housewives!
Who may expected be?


The neighbors do not yet suspect!
The woods exchange a smile—
Orchard, and buttercup, and bird—
In such a little while!


And yet how still the landscape stands,
How nonchalant the wood,
As if the resurrection
Were nothing very odd!

~Emily dickinson

There’s a lovely quality of waiting to this poem–the anticipation of something beautiful and familiar, something expected and consistent. Spring is like that–we can depend upon it. It always comes, bringing with it its usual cast of characters. Though there may be fluctuations from year to year, it always arrives essentially on time.

Dickinson absolutely crams this poem with personification–it’s everywhere, in almost every line. The red and white ladies are probably specific plants she’s thinking of, but they could be any red and white spring blooms. I like how the poem ends with the notion of the earth itself not being overwhelmed by anticipation, as we human creatures often are when spring is near. The landscape is “still,” the wood “nonchalant.” Nature always trusts that spring is coming. It’s we humans who forget that, who get overwhelmed, distracted, who lose hope. But nature waits, patiently, knowing that all things arrive in their season.

“Till summer folds her miracle”

THE SPRINGTIME’S pallid landscape
Will glow like bright bouquet,
Though drifted deep in parian
The village lies to-day.


The lilacs, bending many a year,
With purple load will hang;
The bees will not forget the time
Their old forefathers sang.


The rose will redden in the bog,
The aster on the hill
Her everlasting fashion set,
And covenant gentians frill,


Till summer folds her miracle
As women do their gown,
Or priests adjust the symbols
When sacrament is done.

~Emily Dickinson

The lilacs are browning, their heady fragrance now a memory. How quickly flowers pass! Now the peonies are tight buds atop long green stalks, waiting. Lilies and irises are a promise only, thickets of green spikes.

The wildflowers, though, are hardier things, despite being smaller and seeming so delicate. Daisies are blooming in the field now. Dandelions and Queen Anne’s lace and all those little white and purple and yellow things I cannot name will flourish all summer long. But they, too, will give way to winter. Best to hold on to the beauty of these spring days as tightly as possible.

Altered

AN altered look about the hills;
A Tyrian light the village fills;
A wider sunrise in the dawn;
A deeper twilight on the lawn;
A print of a vermilion foot;
A purple finger on the slope;
A flippant fly upon the pane;
A spider at his trade again;
An added strut in chanticleer;
A flower expected everywhere;
An axe shrill singing in the woods;
Fern-odors on untravelled roads,—
All this, and more I cannot tell,
A furtive look you know as well,
And Nicodemus’ mystery
Receives its annual reply.

~Emily Dickinson

April is here at last, bearing with it all the telltale signs. The light looks different in spring, as if the whole world is breathing in deeply yet quietly. The redbud trees are beginning to flush with a faint haze of purple. Flies are making their way in, somehow. Spiders have been plying the corners all year long, of course, but now that the flies are back, there’s cause for much celebratory and anticipatory web-construction. My chanticleer definitely has an added strut, though here we call him Louis XIV, and he does his best to live up to the name, loudly greeting the sun well before it appears and shepherding the hens around the yard, fussing them to safety when a red-tailed hawk soars by overhead. Around here, there aren’t so many axes ringing out–the sharp echoes here are from distant neighbors testing the sights on shotguns, preparing to scare crows and groundhogs away from spring plantings. The smell of spring is lush, wet, mineral. It smells at once like rain, pollen, and groundwater, like sunshine and sap and hope. It’s difficult to adequately describe–it’s a sight glimpsed briefly, a faint scent, a fleeting sound.

What does spring look, smell, taste, sound, feel like in your corner of the world?