The Poets’ Birds: Songbirds

Eastern Kingbird (Click for greater clarity)
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
                      ~ Emily Dickinson

Around 1813, Emily Dickinson’s grandparents, Samuel Fowler Dickinson and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson, built what may have been the first brick home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Fowler Dickinson, an attorney who participated in the founding of Amherst College, soon had company in the house other than his wife. In 1830, the Dickinsons’ son Edward, also an attorney, moved with his wife and young son into the western half of the Homestead. It was there, on December 20 of the same year, that Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born. In 1833, her sister Lavinia was born: also at the Homestead.

As often happens, time and circumstance changed the Dickinsons’ living arrangements, and the Homestead gained a new owner. But in 1855,  Edward Dickinson re-purchased his father’s house and moved his family there. His daughters Emily and Lavinia, who never married, would live out the remainder of their lives in the home.

Even as I studied Emily Dickinson’s most familiar poems in school, the poet herself seemed somehow out of reach: ethereal; other-worldly; floating through life in her signature white dress. Nothing could have been further from the truth. “I was always attached to mud,” she wrote to Mrs. J.G. Holland, in 1877, and it was this affinity for the realities of the natural world that helped to ground her poetry.

In 2010, during the New York Botanical Garden’s exhibition titled Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers, Gregory Long, its president and CEO, recalled that Dickinson used to include poems with bouquets of flowers she gave to her neighbors. They served as expressions of her attachment to the world, as well as being tokens of affection for those around her.

The people of Amherst who were the friends of Emily Dickinson and her family often received these poems… short poems with presents of flowers or food. They knew her as a poet because of these. Because nothing was really published in her life, or very, very little. So they found the poems, of course, very eccentric.

In fact, Dickinson was better known as a gardener than as a poet. Long adds:

She knew a great deal about plants, and she grew them very well… her poems are not sentimental valentines to flowers. They’re serious poems, but they’re tied to her great passion for plants and nature. So we decided we should introduce people to Emily Dickinson not only as a poet, but as a gardener.

In the exhibition, Dickinson’s own garden was recreated. Todd Forrest designed the space, filling it with an abundance of flowers Dickinson might have planted: foxgloves, daffodils, zinnias, and hydrangeas. Forrest made sure the mix of flowers included dandelions: a decision that required close monitoring of staff who kept wanting to uproot the cheerful, yellow “weeds.” As Forrest explained:

I know for a fact that this is the first time we’ve grown dandelions for a flower show. But dandelions were very important to her. In fact, she referred to herself more as a dandelion. She felt more comfortable and more natural in the fields with the dandelions than she would in the drawing rooms with the fancy folks around Amherst.

It was in the fields, of course, that Dickinson met and enjoyed the other creatures who populated her poetry: the birds, the butterflies, and the bees. A close observer of their lives, she was capable of a certain wry humor, as in these lines from “A Bird Came Down the Walk”:

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

She had her routines, and apparently a strong sense of obligation to her garden. Still, I like to imagine her pausing in the course of deadheading or weeding — her white cotton dress shimmering in the sunlight, the poem-in-process she always carried secure in its pocket — as she listens to “the tune without the words, that never stops at all” and smiles.

I don’t think she’d mind if we smiled, too.

Comments always are welcome. The photo of the Eastern Kingbird (thank, Yvonne!), taken at Texas’s Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, is mine.

83 thoughts on “The Poets’ Birds: Songbirds

  1. What a surprise it was to read your blog post about one of my favorite poetesses—Emily Dickinson. Over the years I have read many of her poems. I found them to be delicate and clean as a whistle.

    I think I read somehere that she did not enjoy people; that she almost never left her house. In the aloness of her life she wrote all these “tunes without words” as you stated.

    “She was an eccentric by locals, she developed a noted penchant for white clothing and became known for her reluctance to greet or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships beween her and other depended upon correspondence.”—Wikipedia

    BTW, the picture of the bird competes with the poem about himself. Thank you for reminding me of this exquisite American poetess.

    1. Having read a good bit about Emily over the past few days — much of which I didn’t know — I have a different sense of who she was, and greater appreciation. While she became increasingly reclusive throughout her life, and was considered eccentric by some, there’s no question she was engaged with life in multiple ways.

      Her garden was a great revelation to me. She studied botany, and preserved many of her plants in her personal herbarium. As a matter of fact, she suggested to others that creating their own herbarium would be well worth their time. It seems she was as familiar with taxonomy as with poetic meter.

      In short, she was an interesting person, albeit slightly mysterious. Whatever the cause for her withdrawal, Amherst society’s loss was poetry’s gain.

  2. As Peggy and I just drove around the US and Canada, most of the area was still in ‘early’ spring mode. There were very few flowers, except for the dandelions that were everywhere with their bright, shiny, yellow faces. Many a time they upgraded the very green photos I was taking. I am with Emily! –Curt

    1. I love the dandelions, too — they do add that certain something to a spring landscape. Unfortunately, they close at night, which means Emily couldn’t enjoy them when she was gardening by moonlight — which she was wont to do, perhaps because of an eye condition.

      Today, archaeologists are at work, poking about and discovering the locations of her original gardens, the conservatory, and so on. Because they were so important to her work, the intention is to restore them as faithfully as the Homestead. I think the projected completion date for many of the projects is 2017. That would make a roadie to Amherst worthwhile.

      1. I have some dandelion photos coming up when I get to the Blue Ridge Highway if not before, Linda.
        Our son Tony has been transferred to the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut where he will be working with cadets that want to fly. It will give Peggy and me an excuse to explore New England and places like Amherst much more thoroughly. —Curt

  3. Dickinson is one of my most favorite poets. You have provided some interesting data about her life.

    The Eastern Kingbird is a great capture with your camera. In my area we have the Western Kingbird but if I go a mere 20 miles east I’ll see the eastern version.

    1. Thanks so much for identifying that bird, Yvonne. I added its name to its photo. It was interesting to compare the two, and to learn that the scientific name for the Eastern Kingbird is “Tyrannus tyrannus.” I’ll say this — when I played the Cornell site’s recording of its call, there was no question that’s what I heard at the refuge. The next time I hear it, I’ll know what to look for.

      Dickinson’s more of a treasure than I had realized. I’ve read many poems now I’d never come across, and enjoyed almost all of them. With a few, she was just too opaque for me: my lack, no doubt.

  4. I’m so out of touch with the poets and poetry I studied decades ago that I had forgotten (or never knew) that Ms. Dickinson was born in America. Loved this blog post and the opportunity to learn more about Emily. I saw a painting years ago of a young woman in white dress tending a flower garden with a white picket fence and the bluest or blue sea in the background. In my imagination that painting belongs on this page.

    1. The painting does seem to have the right feel, doesn’t it? She would have been tucked between the Connecticut River and the Quabbin Reservoir rather than next to the ocean, but never mind that. Pretty water is pretty water (at least, the Reservoir’s pretty) and there’s always blue sky to set off that dress.

      She certainly was a woman of mystery, and from what I’ve read, there’s even some mystery surrounding whether she ever saw the ocean. Whether she did or didn’t, she certainly imagined it. Take a look at “I Started Early, Took My Dog,” sometimes given the title “By the Sea.” Interesting, no?

  5. I am glad that Emily finally got the recognition she deserved. The life of the mind is a law unto itself. Thank goodness her sister Lavinia ignored her last wishes to burn her papers.

    1. I wish the correspondence hadn’t gone up in flames, but at least the poems endured. If you haven’t read this piece about the relationship between the sisters, I think you’ll enjoy it. I thought of you when I read that Lavinia was the cat person in the household: often having them trailing behind her.

  6. I like anyone who grows and nurtures dandelions even when reluctant to meet strangers. She might well have thought, ‘the more I get to know people, the more I like my dandelions.’

    1. Perhaps so. I’ve known a person or two who could make thorns and thistles seem preferable, so a taste for dandelions hardly seems extraordinary.

      Still, she doesn’t seem to have been reacting to the people around her as much as she was responding to some internal compulsion: a necessity of her nature, if you will. There have been suggestions that medical conditions led to her withdrawal, but there’s so much mystery to it all, I certainly wouldn’t presume to judge. Thank goodness we don’t have to understand it all to enjoy her poetry.

  7. Hearing her connection to dandelions, causes me to like her even more. I’ve not read too many of her poems. Former writer/ poet that lived with us a couple of years ago, felt like she was following in the footsteps of Emily…(wanted to withdraw from the world, and just write poetry.) I’ve read elsewhere, that for a time more than one young woman decided to withdraw from the world like she did. I’m rambling…must say, I loved this post! DM

    1. I’ve known a few who were inclined toward that “refuse the world, become a writer” path. There’s a kind of intentionality there which seems to me to be missing in Dickinson. Her withdrawal seems to have been gradual, and more a result of her writing than its cause.

      In any event, there are varieties of withdrawal. I don’t see any evidence that Dickinson was trying to prove a point, or punish someone, or lick whatever wounds she might have had. And she didn’t just write poetry — she had those gardens to tend. You know what that’s like!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I went looking, and discovered that she even wrote a different sort of poem that you might enjoy:

      “The Products of my Farm are these
      Sufficient for my Own
      And here and there a Benefit
      Unto a Neighbor’s Bin.

      With Us, ’tis Harvest all the Year
      For when the Frosts begin
      We just reverse the Zodiac
      And fetch the Acres in.”

      I do like that one.

      1. Thanks for tracking that one down Linda. It is a simple earthy poem. Hearing she liked to garden, puts a whole new perspective on her for me. I had this perception, she never set foot outside the house after a certain point, thinking maybe she had a case of agoraphobia or something.

        1. There are so many mysteries: so many things we’ll never know, I suppose. There certainly have been scholars galore who’ve tried to figure her out. I’ll just enjoy her poetry — and now that I know about it, her work with flowers.

  8. Several years ago I wrote a manuscript called “When Sparrows Sang.” It was mostly memories of times when church choirs were “on the spot” singers – those who went forward when the leader said something like, “those of you who want to sing, come on down.” In it I somewhat rued the time when sparrows could no long sing because they couldn’t compete with the meadowlarks, and dandelions could not longer grow because they could not compete with the lilies. In it I pointed out that life would be so much easier if we just accepted sparrows as songbirds, which they are, and dandelions as flowers, which they are. It is terribly time consuming to try to rid ourselves of each. Since Emily liked the dandelions, I’m sure she must have like the sparrows also. Loved the post.
    I came over to your blog last night to see if I had missed you this week. because I got so far behind I had to give up on some. I was happy I had not missed you. I guess you are still playing catch up also.

    1. You’re exactly right, Oneta. Being gone for four days was wonderful, but I ended up being essentially gone from the internet for more than a week because of work responsibilities when I got home. Things are feeling a little more under control this morning.

      Your mention of sparrows is apropos. I finally found a way to outsmart the feathered vacuum cleaners called pigeons, who were keeping every other kind of bird at my feeders from getting food. On the other hand, the feeder that’s filled with shelled sunflower seed is attracting flocks of sparrows, and I’ve been advised that, if only I would feed differently, I could get rid of the sparrows, too.

      Why I’d want to do that, I’m not sure. I enjoy their chattering, and now that they’re bringing their babies around, there’s a lot of enjoyment in just watching them. Besides, all of their activity is attracting the attention of other birds, and I’ve added cardinals and house finches to the mix. As for the pigeons? They hang around on the ground, and pick up the leavings — except when I can’t stand them staring at me through the window any longer, and put out a couple of handsful of seed, just for them.

    1. Neither surprises me, Terry. There are several poets who are especially good at capturing aspects of nature in their work, and she’s certainly one. It doesn’t bother me at all that I can’t make heads or tails of some of her work. What does appeal is splendid.

    1. I’m not surprised you like her poetry, Nia. I was surprised to read that she didn’t especially like cats, even though her sister, Lavinia, was quite a fan of the furballs. I found this poem, which gave me a laugh. You might like it, too. Not every cat/bird confrontation is a sad one!

  9. Once again, I find myself devouring your lovely words as a parched soil soaks up rainfall. I’m sure we had lots of opportunities to study Emily in Literature classes, but I didn’t know all this — especially about the gardening and the dandelions. Thanks for starting my week off with new knowledge!

    What a pretty creature that Kingbird is — I love his snowy underside! Now I’m going to have to Google him and find out a bit about his habitat…and his song.

    Hope you had a lovely time away — welcome back!

    1. There’s much about Emily I didn’t know, either, and it’s been great fun learning about her. We do have a couple of things in common — sort of. She liked white dresses, and I like white flowers. She carried poems around in her pocket while gardening, and I scribble lines on used sandpaper. I think the similarities end there, but it’s still fun to ponder.

      The kingbird was a pretty thing. i’m sure that’s the only one I’ve seen, but now that i’ve heard their song, I know they were around. Maybe I can catch them again when they migrate through in the fall.

      I had such a good time while I was gone. We did absolutely nothing but look at flowers — well, except for the day I became a philosopher. More about that later!

  10. I am sad that I haven’t read much of Dickenson’s poetry, but really, I have never had much understanding of it. I prefer to get my poetry in the form of prose, in long sentences weighed down or buoyed by alliteration. Still, the poet herself is a person of fascination. And it’s hard not to imagine her practically luminous in her white dress as you described her above. Great post, as always!

    1. Honestly, Alex? When I read Dickinson, I often feel as though I’m listening to someone who’s constantly thinking, but speaking only about every fifth word. Many of her poems feel like fragments to me: like the bits and pieces I have in my draft files, labeled “seed poems.”

      I’ve always thought it interesting that she’s paired with Whitman as a source for a new American poetry. That may be so, but I have a little trouble with Whitman, too. There are pieces of his work that sing for me, but just as many that seem tendentious.

      Still, as you say, Dickinson (and Whitman, too) fascinate personally. I’m intending to follow the restoration of her garden, too. Some of the commentary I’ve read suggests that past critics have missed the meaning of many of her poems, simply because they weren’t being literal enough. She wasn’t imagining flowers, butterflies, and bees as Symbols. She was living with them: in the flesh, as it were.

  11. We all seemed to pick up on the gardening and the dandelions. She always felt so fragile to me much as I liked her poetry. Someone to be protected from the harshness of the world. Lovely to learn that she gained such comfort and hope in her garden.

    1. I think it’s fascinating that the archaeologists have managed to find Dickinson’s conservatory, and many of the beds. She may have been fragile in some ways, but she clearly was a competent and determined gardener — like someone else I know. I’ve read enough about the work you and Dr. Advice put into your various gardens, including the beautiful Japanese garden, to know that you and Emily could sit and talk plants for a good while.

      Me? I’ve come home from the hill country and my friend’s garden determine to spiff up my little corner of the world. Woman does not live by prickly pear alone!

  12. I just love her work, that poem is just beautiful. Now why didn’t I know she was a gardener who let the dandelions grow? I always leave a large patch of nettles for the butterflies.xxx

    1. Nettles? For the butterflies? Do you mean the stinging nettles?

      I went off to try and answer my own questions, and found the summer solstice nettle-eating contest in Hawkchurch. I’ve come across plenty of eating contests (here, it’s jalapeno peppers) but this is as weird as I’ve found. I’d be happy to eat a dandelion, but I’ll leave the nettles for the butterflies, too.

    1. Wouldn’t it have been fun? Maybe it’s time to start planning a trip to Amherst for 2017, after they have the gardens restored. It ought to be quite a sight — and you even could see her white dress in the museum.

  13. Thanks for the link to the exhibit. Beautiful! This post makes me think of Dorothy Wordsworth. I have come to think of her as a personal friend…I continue reading her journals, and it’s like getting little notes from her- walking in the Lake District, sights, sounds and daily life, including all the plants in the area and what she and William grew in their gardens. Wonder what Emily would have thought of Dorothy and v v.

    1. I didn’t know of her journals, but journals and collections of letters are among my favorite reads. I’ll put hers on my list, and do some exploring. From what I read online, I think I’d enjoy them. There are some lovely (and from what I’ve read, quite impressive) daffodil gardens about three hours north of me. I missed them this year, but if I happen to visit next year, I can imagine Dorothy’s reflections pairing nicely with them.

      Emily and Dorothy had one trait in common: a reluctance to pursue publication. That alone might have piqued their interest in each other. They could have read their poems to one another.

  14. Thanks for leading me a bit deeper into Dickenson’s poetry and life. She constitutes something of a lacuna in my education, although I’m not quite sure why. The bits I have read are absolutely lovely, and the earth sings strong in her words. It is interesting to compare hers, with the poetry of someone like Rilke who is so very different and yet I find a resonance with each.

    1. One thing I’ve discovered in browsing her work again is how relevant certain of her observations are for our modern times. She’s not all butterflies and bees. Look at this one, which might have something to say to these days of obsessive social media use:

      I’m Nobody! Who are you?
      Are you – Nobody – too?
      Then there’s a pair of us!
      Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

      How dreary – to be – Somebody!
      How public – like a Frog –
      To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
      To an admiring Bog!

      That’s so spot on, and hugely amusing. It made me realize there could be gems hidden away in her work that show quite a different side of her that that included in most school curricula.

    1. When I began reading about her, it was like following her garden paths. At every turn, there was something new to pursue: especially her botanical interests. It’s another reminder that even her most ethereal verse is grounded somehow in the earth.

  15. Do you happen to know whether any of Emily Dickinson’s poems are known to us only from the copies she gave to neighbors along with bouquets?

    Speaking of hydrangeas, they’re flowering all over the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville now.

    1. That’s an interesting question. I prowled around a bit yesterday, but couldn’t find an answer. In her collected works, there are poems that were sent to others in correspondence — in that way escaping the destruction suffered by her papers — but I couldn’t find even a mention of the occasional verse she’d apparently strewn around her like flower petals.

      On the other hand, poem number 1324 certainly sounds like it could have been included with a bouquet (of sorts). The woman makes me laugh:

      “I send you a decrepit flower
      That nature sent to me
      At parting — she was going south
      And I designed to stay —

      Her motive for the souvenir
      If sentiment for me
      Or circumstances prudential
      Withheld invincibly —”

      Lucky you, to be at Crystal Bridges in spring/early summer. I’d hoped to be able to make that trip this year, but it wasn’t to be. I’m glad to know they have hydrangeas. I’ve loved them a good while.

      1. You’re easy to recognize in that photograph.

        I didn’t photograph any of the hydrangeas at Crystal Bridges because all the ones that had tags on them were cultivars. I did photograph some other wildflowers, although there weren’t that many. It also didn’t help that the temperature even in the morning was well into the 80s.

        The main difference between the visit three years ago and the current one is the addition of a Frank Lloyd Wright house, which we got to tour the inside of:

        http://crystalbridges.org/frank-lloyd-wright/

        1. That’s quite a house: very attractive, and perfectly sited. It’s interesting to compare it with another of his homes, located here in Houston: the so-called Thaxton house. I’ve never heard of Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty that’s handling (or handled) the sale, but the inclusion of “Sotheby” seems apt.

    1. It would have been a splendid experience, I think. I’m even more interested in the work the archaeologists are doing at her home in Amherst. I’ve never been to New England, and I’m slowly piling up places that I’d love to see. There’s an ongoing exhibit at Harvard I’d love to see, too. Clearly, Massachusetts has more attractions than Cape Cod.

  16. Enjoyed very much. So nice to read about Emily Dickinson’s background and her love for gardening. I didn’t know before that she was considered eccentric by the people in her town. I love to read things that are entertaining, as well as informative; this was just right for me. Thank you.

    1. No one sets out to be bored. I’ve always thought that if a subject bores me, it surely will bore my readers, so I try very hard to avoid that sort of result. Your mention that you found this entertaining as well as informative pleases me very much.

      I’ve enjoyed my own reintroduction to Dickinson and her work. For years, I didn’t have much opinion of her: one way or the other. Now, I think I’d like her — even though I still don’t “get” much of her poetry.

  17. Isn’t it odd that I learn more about “The Belle of Amherst” from a writer in Texas than by my own experience in her home town? Mary Beth and I were just talking about never having visited her home or grave here in Amherst. I’ll have to rectify that one of these days along with pictures and a blog post. The whole place was recently restored.

    1. It seems to be a common phenomenon, Steve — the business of passing by what’s right in our neighborhood. Every day I sit here and look out the window at the various towers and antennae of the Johnson Space Center. Have I taken the tour? Nope.

      Here’s a recent NYTimes article that provides some information about the restoration of the orchard, gardens, and conservatory. I can imagine that next spring the grounds will provide plenty of opportunity for a nature photographer.

  18. So she fancied dandelions? I get it. I love buttercups. They all add something to the world, as did Emily Dickinson.

    1. I have a friend who loves buttercups, too. While the farmers are trying to figure out how to get them out of their pastures, she’s trying to nurture the little things. But it’s true that their glowing yellow is delightful, or that they light up the landscape while they’re around.

      I started wondering about why farmers don’t want them in pastures, and found one answer here. I guess maybe having both horses and buttercups in your neighboring pasture wouldn’t be such a good idea.

  19. Gardening has come a long way since E. Dickinson’s time, for better or worst. Wildflowers continue to be considered weeds, and hybrids are created to increase sales and profit. I read about the exhibition and wished I would’ve seen it. Ironically, it was also during her time that exotic plants were being introduced, so who knows she was having the best of both worlds!

    I love E. Dickinson for all that she represents. She was a naturalist and a woman ahead of her times!

    1. You’ve reminded me of a visit I made to our best local garden center last year. I asked one of the staff there about goldenrod, specifically “Solidago sempervirens,” and he gave me a look. “Oh,” he said, “that’s a weed!” Ah, well.

      Dickinson surely was a naturalist. The herbarium she created had more than four hundred specimens, and she encouraged her friends to join in the fun, writing to one: “Have you made an herbarium yet? I hope you will if you have not, it would be such a treasure to you; most all the girls are making one. If you do, perhaps I can make some additions to it from flowers growing around here.”

      In fact, if you’re interested, you can have a look at her complete collection, which has been digitized and is available through Harvard. You can search the database by common or scientific name.

  20. Ah Emily. She frequently appears at our poetry readings and always enchants. The simplicity, the rhythm and melody of her poems is seemingly so easily assembled, but dive deeper and you find true beauty.

    1. I can’t find it again now, but I glanced at a very interesting article about the difficulties of reading Dickinson’s poetry aloud. All of those dashes and dots aren’t always easy to interpret, as I’m sure you and your fellow readers know.

      Now that I’ve found a complete listing of her poems online, I’ve bumped into many that I’ve never read. There are some real gems in there, including this one, that reminds me of your gardens. it’s really a bit amusing that I chose her poem for this “poets’ birds” series, but it’s her dandelions and gardening that have stirred the most interest. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  21. Love Emily and love the poems you shared. I would love to see that exhibition — I’ve read about it (NYT, I think, or some FB link). Dandelions. The first flower we give our mothers.

    I have a new tenant — a brown wren is building its nest inside a birdhouse hanging outside Lizzie’s window! I don’t know how much more it can cram in there but I don’t think it’s sitting yet. We shall see!

    1. The exhibition would have been lovely, but truly, I’d be just as happy to wait until they have the gardens restored. There’s always something deeply personal about someone’s garden — their choice of plants and colors, the arrangement. Well, unless they hire someone to give them the latest in garden fashion, or “garden” like my mother did, with a remarkable lack of planning. She just was happy to see something grow.

      Wrens are wonderful. Lizzie will have some real entertainment in the weeks to come. I saw a parent wren with one baby the last day I went down to the Brazos, before the flood closed the roads. It’s the first young wren I’ve seen, and it certainly had learned how to beg for what it wanted.

      Speaking of our animals, I look Dixie to the vet today with that 100 mg of gabapenten in her system.She didn’t turn into a love-kitty, but at least the vet could handle her. In fact, while we were waiting, she went to sleep in the waiting room. Both the vet and I were pleased.

      When we came home, she was walking a bit sideways and staggering like a drunk, but she’s past that, now. She’s still sleeping it off, but there’s no question that, if an evacuation is called for this year, that 100 mg dose will keep her relaxed long enough to get anywhere we’d be going. It still cracks me up that the drug’s the same one Mom took post-shingles. And she thought she didn’t have anything in common with my cat!

    1. Having read a good bit more about her life for this post, I certainly have a new appreciation for her as a person and a poet. Her powers of observation were remarkable — no question about that. Looking at her herbarium sheets and reading her poems, the thought occurred to me that it would have been interesting to put a digital camera in her hand. I suspect she would have made a heck of a photographer.

  22. I’ve enjoyed your series of birds and poets. Emily Dickinson is one of my all time faves. And we have another common bird. I’ve photographed the Eastern Kingbird too. Other nature poets are the obvious ones, like Robert Frost and Wendell Berry. I think you’ve written about them.

    1. Arti, it’s going to be fun through the coming seasons to see just how many birds we share. I’m going to have to get better at owl spotting, though. I did see some movement in a schefflera just outside my window this afternoon, and it turned out to be a teen-aged cardinal. I’ve been hearing chirps, so it seems they’ve found the food. I’m hoping to see others in the coming days.

      Did you get to Amherst on your autumn trip? I don’t think so. I seem to remember you visited Frost’s grave (those pennies, right?) but I think that’s in Vermont. I know this — if I ever make it to New England, Amherst’s on my list. Like you, I’m fond of Emily: and as a person now, as well as a poet.

  23. So refreshing to learn something new here, Linda. You are always revealing some facet or nuance. I like the concept of Emily Dickenson’s garden recreated. Your photo of the kingbird is superb, especially the clarity of those feathers.

    1. The thought of a recreated garden interested me, too. The detail I found most fascinating is the restorers hope that, as they dig, they may find buried, dormant seeds that provide a direct link to her actual plants. It never would have occurred to me that such a thing was possible, but my imagination can be limited when it comes to such things.

      Isn’t the kingbird pretty? It’s another example of car-as-bird blind being just the ticket. Some birds still can be skittish, but this one didn’t mind that I stopped, backed up, and rolled down the window in order to get his photo. Whatever they think a car is, it doesn’t seem to be experienced as much of a threat.

  24. I always enjoy this poetess! Thank you for sharing this post in your own personal style of connecting with your audience! :)
    I am off to the Blue Ridge Mountains ~~ trusting it will be a wonderful reprieve of TX heat — but forecast indicates flooding in the area! Ahh cannot get away from rain’s bounty!! :)

    1. I was thinking yesterday that we’re nearly to July — which means it’s only three months until October, with its lessened heat and lowered hurricane threat. I’m glad you’re having a chance to get away for a while. A friend loves the Blue Ridge, and posts fabulous photos — I know you’ll enjoy it.

      When I looked at the weather reports for some places along the Parkway, I was so tickled by the names of some of the towns. Now I have an urge to visit Fancy Gap, Virginia. I think it surely has a saloon and dance hall. Safe travels!

  25. It’s always fun to read Emily Dickinson, and I enjoyed how you featured some of her writings about birds and gardens. The photo of the Eastern Kingbird is wonderful.

    1. I know I read your comment, and it triggered a thought of something… Apparently, I wandered off in thought and never made it back!

      What I’ve learned since writing this is that she was only fourteen or so when she began putting together her herbarium. She certainly maintained her interest over the years, and put it to good use.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the kingbird — and I’m glad to know what it is, now!

  26. This poem by Emily Dickinson so simply expresses what is worthwhile…and that is not the grand statement but just thoughtfully being…and has a bird :)

    Not in Vain

    If I can stop one heart from breaking,
    I shall not live in vain:
    If I can ease one life the aching,
    Or cool one pain,
    Or help one fainting robin
    Unto his nest again,
    I shall not live in vain.

    1. Judy, that’s such a nice poem — and I say that not to damn it with faint praise. “Niceness” has fallen out of favor, but there’s something about its quiet simplicity that’s refreshing.

      I’ve really enjoyed browsing through her poems. So many of them, I’ve never read. There’s far more variety than I imagined, and it’s interesting to ponder what relationship there might be between her poems and her life.

      Thanks for adding this little gem. Can’t you just see Emily, helping that bird back into its nest?

  27. The more I learn about ED the better I like her. Perhaps I will carry her with me to Stone Circle tonight, and recite – if I can only remember it – one of my favorite verses.

    1. I’m certainly more interested in her as a person now that I’ve done some research, and digging into her archives has been satisfying, too. She’s one of those who’s been known by only a handful of poems — fair enough, but her archives are filled with some real treasures. I think she’d be pleased to be taken along tonight, especially to a Stone Circle. It has a rather garden-like feel, that name.

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