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Archive for the tag “Emily Dickinson”

Emily Dickinson’s response to war

When I visited the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Ma., this past weekend, our tour guide handed us each a copy of one of Emily’s poems, written in 1863 in response to the Civil War. I think the poem is very timely and I wanted to share it with you:

They dropped like Flakes –
They dropped like stars –
Like Petals from a Rose –
When suddenly across the June
A Wind with fingers – goes –

They perished in the seamless Grass –
No eye could find the place –
But God can summon every face
On his Repealless – List.


Powerful stuff. Any thoughts? Maybe you’ve got a favorite protest poem?

More of my trip to Western Massachusetts

In Northampton, my girlfriend and I ate every meal at Evolution Cafe, an incredible vegan restaurant.


We ate delectable cupcakes, salads, sandwiches and yesterday we had the most amazing brunch with a vegan “omelette” and home fires that we flipped over. Here are pictures of us enjoying our breakfast:




 I was totally psyched to drive to Amherst, the famous college town a few miles away. Amherst is another Western Mass town established in the 1700s. Check out the great old buildings:

Of course, Amherst is also famous for being the home of Emily Dickinson, one of my idols. We took a 90-minute tour at the Emily Dickinson museum, which is in Emily’s house. Dude, I stood in the bedroom where Emily wrote her poetry!

Here’s the back of the house where you enter the museum (it was actually Emily’s father’s house, but she lived there most of her life):

Have you ever wondered what the grounds looked like when Emily – an excellent gardener – came outside and walked around her house? Well, they looked like this:

When we drove out of Amherst, we accidentally stumbled upon a house in West Brookfield with a sign declaring it was the birthplace of Lucy Stone, the famous American suffragist who was the first woman on record to keep her birth name after marrying her husband, the abolitionist Henry Brown Blackwell.

Then we went apple picking! Seriously. This is life in New England. We picked up my cousin Michelle who lives in Three Rivers and drove to an apple orchard in Monson. We actually didn’t get to pick them – there was sign about the crops being light this year – but we bought them and wow, I had forgotten how great freshly picked apples taste.

We also took a stop at a cemetery there to visit our grandparents Hans and Lillian Vogl. We were both mystified as to why Hans’s gravestone had the Americanized name “John” instead. We remembered some people calling him John – it’s the American version of Hans – but I left feeling sad that this man who was born in Munich, Germany and fled to the United States on the brink of World War II should have to lie in a grave in a tiny town in New England under a name that’s not his own.

The other funny thing about the cemetery: Michelle pointed out to me that my grandmother and two of her sisters, Ann and Frances, all have the same birth year on their graves. See, after my grandmother’s mother died giving birth to her 14th child, my grandmother’s father dropped off all the kids at a Catholic orphanage in New Jersey and started a new life (and family) for himself. I heard that a fire at the orphanage destroyed all their records and as a result none of the kids knew what year they were born. The grave stones – now, I’m not sure who decided what year to put, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the three sisters used the same birth year throughout their lives. They were spiritually close, sharing everything (even husbands). In fact, all of the children cared for each other after getting out of the orphanage one by one. I’ve never met a more tight-knit collection of siblings.

We drove back to Boston today, but before catching our flight at Logan, we tooled around Cambridge for a bit. Here is an old building – a church?- that’s right near all the Harvard buildings:

And a great inscription over a Harvard entrance that’s unfortunately not clear in my picture :

It says, “Enter to grow in wisdom.”

Emily Dickinson might have a sex tape!

Are you one of those who thinks 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson spent her time alone in her father’s house in Amherst, Mass? That she never even kissed a boy and probably lay in bed at night pretending to french her pillow? Ha!

Christopher Benfey at Slate argues that “spinster” Emily had several gentleman callers in her lifetime. And one of them was a judge her father’s age!

Benfey cites evidence from stuffy scholarly journals proving Emily was engaged while she was in college. She even – gasp! – entertained men at home. Her poetry certainly brimmed with longing and love, but for whom? Who inspired lusty lines such as these:

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

Was it the judge? The college beau? Whoever he was, he inspired some of America’s most potent poems about love and lust. Isn’t it interesting to know that Emily wasn’t just pretending?

What do these historical figures have in common?

Tell me if you admire any of these historical figures and I will tell you something they all had in common:

Abraham Lincoln
Benjamin Franklin
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rosa Parks
Sir Isaac Newton
Susan B. Anthony
Mahatma Gandhi
Albert Einstein
Albert Schweitzer
Jane Goodall
Isaac Bashevis Singer
J.D. Salinger
Jean-Jacque Rosseau
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Immanual Kant
Coretta Scott King
Franz Kafka
Charles Darwin
Emily Dickinson
Vincent Van Gogh
Dizzie Gillespie
Gustave Flaubert
H.G. Wells
Louisa May Alcott
George Harrison
Paul McCartney
Ringo Starr
John Lennon
Leo Tolstoy
Leonardo DaVinci
George Bernard Shaw
William Blake
Mark Twain
Mary Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Lord Byron
Mr. Rogers
Nikola Tesla
Rainer Maria Rilke

So, what do all of these folks have in common? Every single one of them was a vegetarian.

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