Last weekend was Emily Dickinson's birthday, and the Emily Dickinson Museum hosted a party where visitors were given bright pink and orange-yellow roses, hot cider, and cake and cookies made from Dickinson's recipes. The atmosphere was festive and crowded as guests of all ages wandered through the parlors and sitting rooms to the sound of live fiddle and hammered dulcimer music. Upstairs, volunteers led children and adults in making ornaments out of paper reproductions of Dickinson's manuscripts.
The poet's bedroom maintained a peaceful atmosphere despite the bustle. Yellow winter light washed through the large windows and the white walls and bedding gave it all back. In a corner near the front windows stood Dickinson's writing table and lamp. Although the poet would have seen fields instead of buildings across the street, the street itself has been there for centuries and she watched everything and everyone that passed there. "Twice she saw the circus pass by," a volunteer told me. "The Barnum circus with all the elephants and everything. They got off the train and came up Main Street on their way to the Amherst Common."
In contrast, the house across town (no longer standing) where Dickinson spent a portion of her childhood faced a cemetery, which must have brought different musings than her view of Main Street. I've been lucky in my house and in my last apartment to have a writing room of my own, and my last one looked down Pleasant Street, one of the main streets in Easthampton, and across at a funeral home. I valued seeing people gather in mourning or celebration of life. It was a reminder of what is often ignored in daily life, the edge and moment that are always hovering invisibly nearby all of us.
Now my writing window shows me a tiny sliver of Mount Tom visible between houses and trees. More prominent is the plain white siding of the neighbor's house and the inside of our 6-foot wooden fence. The fence is old enough that most of it is patched, tied, or staked in some way, waiting for spring to allow us to replace it. The post in front of my window is ingloriously wrapped with a large amount of white rope, holding the fence pickets haphazardly in place. It reminds me of all that is imperfect in life, the jerry-rigging and the compromises, that I have to accept, at least on some level, in order to keep moving forward.
What do you see out of your window?