Riding with Emily

As imperceptibly as Grief
by Emily Dickinson

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away—
Too imperceptible at last,
To seem like Perfidy—
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon—
The Dusk drew earlier in—
The Morning foreign shone—
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone—
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

This poem greets me as I open my daily Writer’s Almanac, and I flash back to a day in late summer driving north from our stay in the Rogue River Recreation area and Crater Lake visit. We have passed through worlds of weather, terrain, and geography, in the span of a few hours, and we will be merging onto I-5 in a few minutes, a high-speed ribbon of road, rain-grayed and unspooling toward our destination: home.

In the back seat of our Mazda, our son and his soon-to-be-and-now-is wife, wrap around each other like puppies finding comfort in this womb of conveyance while outside pastures and river disappear in the rearview as hurtling forward takes over. In the front seat, my husband at the helm, I sit both beside him—and elsewhere— in the world of Emily Dickinson. Martha Ackman and her book, These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson are transporting me.

What is it about Miss Emily that captures my imagination? Yes, I read her poetry and am always astounded, but I am no scholar, can lay no claim to having memorized any more than a handful of her 1800 (or so? What about those letters that read like poems?). It is she who fills my imagination, so ahead of her time, astute with rare intelligence, forming friendships that endured a lifetime, witty and sometimes self-doubting…finding comfort in solitude, her own best company but maybe lonely, too. Leaving us with her words, webs she wove to ensnare us in all our humanity, aware of her or not.

Our small car leaves palimpsests in the rain, more than a century later, the past, the present, and the future, breathing within, our light escape into the beautiful.

4 thoughts on “Riding with Emily”

  1. There is something so simple yet thought provoking in Emily’s words. This is a great example of how someone’s words can transport up to a place in our memory.

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