Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Dickinson Homestead

THE PROPS assist the house
Until the house is built,
And then the props withdraw—
And adequate, erect,
The house supports itself;
Ceasing to recollect
The auger and the carpenter.
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected life,
A past of plank and nail,
And slowness,--then the scaffolds drop—
Affirming it a soul.

-- Emily Dickinson

The Dickinson Homestead, where Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and where she lived for all but fifteen years of her life, was the center of her world and provided the privacy and sanctuary she needed to write her extraordinary poems, not that she had unlimited leisure to devote to them. Emily did her share of the household tasks, which were by no means confined to the baking of the bread, black cake, and gingerbread [No!!!!!] for which she has lately acquired a certain fame. Once her brother Austin wrote up the family activities on a given morning as a brief skit in which a very young Emily enters the kitchen with mop and pail. More to her liking, no doubt, but still a demand on her time, was the garden to the east of the house that owed its burgeoning flowers to her. She also cared for the conservatory with its herbs, other plants, and indeed, wildflowers, which are notoriously hard to grow. Then, too, many hours must have gone into the writing of her remarkable letters, an achievement in themselves, by which she kept in touch with friends and relatives who remained dear to her even as she withdrew increasingly from the outside world. But when the poetic impulse struck her, as it so frequently did, we can imagine her snatching up the first used envelope she could lay her hand on or a wrapper of Swiss chocolate [much better than gingerbread!!] with a precious unprinted side (in those years paper was somewhat scarce) and writing down the fresh new lines while the gingerbread baked but was not allowed to burn [or to be eaten].

A recipe I promise never to make.

Ice cream!!!!

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