Not too long ago, a friend asked me: “Do you blog?” I was embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know “blog” had become a verb. I was still stuck in the “way back machine” when it was just an ordinary noun.
Then I broke my ankle. I was housebound for a few weeks. Instead of walking my dog at sunrise, I had to sit on my porch and wait while helpful friends took Lance out to the bayou to conduct his morning business. I grew restless and bored. I also became aware that I had been searching for a meditation practice, something for me to do each morning on a consistent basis that would help me to shape my day in a pattern that went a little deeper than reading my horoscopes. What to do?
Above my desk, I have taped a piece of paper containing a poem: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—” I regard this one of the few pieces of advice that has endured longer than a few days in my attention span. Emily Dickinson is the one person I’d be willing to listen to for any length of time. Thus, I arrived at my meditation practice, which would double as a writing practice. Perfect.
So, I am reading The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. The latest copyright printed on the inside flap of my copy is 1960. The price: $6.95. The introduction tells me this edition relies heavily on the 1955 variorum text of The Poems of Emily Dickinson published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (in three volumes!!). That consisted of 1775 poems. Emily’s capricious Capitalizations and highly intentional— dashes— are therein preserved.
I relay all this information as a form of throat clearing. The important information follows: This edition has been gathering dust on my shelf for many years, probably since my undergraduate days at Smith. It bristles with post-it notes, each holding the place of my (many) favorites. The practice frame I have devised requires that I read one of Emily’s poems each morning, beginning at the beginning and continuing so forth in the order in which they are published. I read the poem aloud, close my eyes and let it dissolve on my tongue like a lozenge. Then I pick up my notebook and pen and write whatever comes to mind.
I am forcing myself to read the work in chronological order to make sure that I read the poems I have overlooked in the past. As well, the purpose for this arbitrariness is that I am using each poem as a departure for my own contemplative inner journey. Not to savor Emily’s Greatest Hits. That would be too easy. I am putting Em in charge of my process here. At least, for the time being. I reserve the right to change the rules, and will keep you apprised as we proceed.
It is also important to note here that I write spontaneously, without a plan. The practice relies on allowing the poem to inspire whatever words come next from the pen. As a writer, I am the follower, not a leader, in this process. Also I write with a regular old pen and paper. The psyche/soma connection seems the more direct path into the landscape that the poem points me toward. I scribble free-hand first and then later transcribe onto this blog. Writing that flows from the flesh and muscle of my hand is different from the words tapped out on a keyboard. Not sure how it is, but I know it is.
Yes, and so finally we arrive at the question: “Why blog?” Additionally one might ask: “How spontaneous can this writing be, if she knows she is going to transcribe it onto a blog, which is published on the internet and may be seen by anyone with a computer?” All good questions. The answer is that I have this pesky friend who put this bug in my ear about blogging. It seemed like a good idea and I thought I’d try it, since I’ve never done it before, and I like to do things I’ve never done before.
Secondly, I decided to publish my meditative/creative practice because I have a hunch that I am more likely to stick with it, if I know there is a conscious, intentional container for it. An audience, if you will. I am not thinking of the people who read the blog, as the audience. I think of you—if you’re there at all—as invited eavesdroppers. No, I’m thinking of the blog itself as the immediate listener. If I know someone (this page) is waiting to hear what I come up with each morning, that will keep me honest and keep me on the simple and true path that I have devised for myself: Read, savor, contemplate, allow, write.
Join me if you like. I’ll be here every day with Emily, either way.