The Recluse

Yesterday, following the peaceful walk in the refreshing, but nippy air of the waterfowl park, I was draw inside to the fireside. There I picked up a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry I had taken from our library. Curled up by the fire I began to flip through the pages, drawn this time, not to the poems but to her story. In my explorations I found not a shy recluse, as she is often portrayed, but an intelligent creative woman, who chose to leave polite society behind to pursue her passion. Bored with the continual round of giving and receiving visitors as was expected of a woman of her station, she chose instead to withdraw and converse with the likes of Shakespeare, the Brownings, the Brute sisters and Nathaniel Hawthorn to name a few. Previously, at her academy, she had excelled in her studies of Latin, geography and the sciences as well as English literature.  During her life she wrote over 1,800 poems and corresponded regularly with several intelligent men and women and several dear friends.  She was also her brother’s counselor, the family baker and gardener, and together with her sister cared for her ill mother. She was also close to her father, beloved of her nieces and nephews, and a favorite companion of the neighbourhood children. In times of sorrow or celebration she sent flowers from her garden, with poems attached, to members of the community. She was an individual refusing to confirm to the religion of the time. When asked why she did not rise when it was asked who wanted to be a Christian she said ‘They thought it queer I didn’t rise’—adding with a twinkle in her eye, ‘I thought a lie would be queerer.’“ Devout in her own way, she chose not to conform.  A feminist before her time she saw too clearly what price intelligent women paid in marriage as she stated

She rose to His Requirement – dropt
The Playthings of Her Life
To take the honorable Work
Of Woman, and of Wife –

Her later more strict seclusion in her later years seems to have come as response to a series of deaths in a short order, including her father, her young nephew, her beloved dog and several corespondents and supporters, Emily Dickinson’s love of nature has always made her feel like a kindred spirit but now as I get to know more fully this vibrant passionate woman, I am even more drawn to this sister from another time.