And then a Plank in Reason, broke
Emily Dickinson tamed complicated emotions for us because she gave them a name
I’ve been thinking about this Dickinson poem for the past few weeks, the one that goes: “I felt a Funeral in my Brain, / And Mourners, to and fro / Kept treading — treading — till it seemed / That Sense was breaking through.”
Emily tamed complicated emotions for us; she gave those experiences a language of their own. I think part of came from the wisdom of being a gardener. She touched the earth all the time. I don’t even need to tell you that. You can see it in her writing. She had grace with the elements. People think that she never left the house, and that’s true to an extent - but every hermit will tell you that plants hold extraordinary magic, as much as paper. My fig tree knows me almost as well as my therapist. I think talking to plants goes hand-in-hand with being the local cryptid. Call for herb growing tips, book recommendations, or if you need to lift a curse - anything else you can Google.
I’ve been to Armrest twice. I did the tourist thing with other first-years in my creative-writing program when I was 19; I sat in her room and stared out of her back window while listening to half the class quote their favorite verses while the other half compared her to Virginia Woolf. I didn’t bring anything home with me from that trip. What I remember most was talking with a couple who said, “You know, we’re both poets.” My eyes rolled to the back of my head, and I thought, “Great. Who isn’t?” before sneaking off to hotbox the rental car with the TA.
Years later, in my late-twenties, I went back and didn’t even go in the house. Just hopped the fence to the backyard and touched the giant trees that were alive when she was alive - the ones she or her father might have planted. They’re ancient and massive. I took off my gloves and ran my hands over the almost crystalized bark. I knew there were still secrets hidden just below the surface, and I wanted them to speak to me. I didn’t care if I got caught - I knew I had to take risks if I was going to find answers. I wasn’t going to get anything (stolen) past the Park Ranger at the front desk.
Plus, everything in that house is dead, and I wanted to deal with the living.
So I took the dirt.