Like Emily Dickinson, I was born in Amherst – just not the one in Massachusetts. My birthplace is Amherst, Ohio, just over the county line from the Firelands, the subject of this blog. Born in 1830, when much of the Firelands remained a wilderness, she was a contemporary of many characters in my stories. And many of her poems fit well with the other name of that place: “Sufferers’ Land.”
Beside the names of our birthplaces, the only other similarity between me and Ms. Dickinson is that we both write. It is a slim comparison, however. I do not write anywhere near as well – and I stick to prose. And although I love poetry, I can’t write it to save my life.
This quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies
And Lads and Girls –
Was laughter and ability and Sighing
And Frocks and Curls.
A chance encounter several years ago with that evocative stanza ensnared me. It expressed so eloquently that poignancy I feel when I write about the lives of my ancestors, and others. Within a short time I had read two anthologies of her poems, all her letters, and numerous commentaries and biographies. Many commentators seemed to find her poetry depressing, and some of it is. But much of it is not, especially her observations of nature:
A Bird, came down the Walk –
He did not know I saw –
He bit an Angle Worm 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 –
He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad –
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. –
Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers,
And rowed him softer Home –
Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.
I have committed to memory this poem, and others, and often recite them while I hike.
If you have not experienced the genius of Emily Dickinson, I encourage you to do so. You may be surprised by what you find.
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This post first appeared on Firelands History Website | "Sufferers' Land" Tale, please read the originial post: here