Emily Dickinson is a cheap date

Rocking your World since 1884

As the oldest of five children, my upbringing differed considerably from the others.

Frugality is part of my earliest memories.  Conservation and efficiency were part of every lecture when I was old enough.  As a result, even to this day, I am not above eating everything on my plate and saving things that my younger siblings willingly throw away.

As you can imagine, frugality is not the easiest way to impress someone of the opposite sex.  Lucky for me, I met a wonderful woman, also the oldest, brought up similarly to me, and understanding of my ways.  In fact, to this day, she is even more frugal, so that I have to toss things when she’s not looking!  I’m sure she knows.

Which brings us to Emily.  Being a tough New England chick, she also would have eschewed anything having to do with frills and waste.  Which is why she was so happy taking long walks, tending her garden, or reading a book.

That’s why I can imagine walking with her, aimlessly, through the woods until we found a small glade, and then, sitting together, read to each other.  I wouldn’t choose anything too heady, no sermon or improving literature.  No, it would be something whimsical, even poetic.  We’d laugh, we’d talk, and then we’d walk home.

She sums all of this up right here.

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without opress of Toll—
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul



Pride and Prejudice: Decompressed

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Jane Austen compressed a lot of action into her prose.  The incredible part isn’t just the compression, after all, other great writers have done that.

What makes Jane the MASTER is that her compression is hidden among ordinary text.  The compressed information gets into your head, and slowly unspools into a much larger story.

That’s beyond great.

By way of illustration, I’m going to grab a semi-random paragraph and unspool it for you before your eyes.

Chapter 21.  Fairly innocuous, not much happens, even by P&P standards.

First Paragraph.  Why not?  Here it is.

The discussion of Mr. Collins’s offer was now nearly at an end, and Elizabeth had only to suffer from the uncomfortable feelings necessarily attending it, and occasionally from some peevish allusions of her mother. As for the gentleman himself, his feelings were chiefly expressed, not by embarrassment or dejection, or by trying to avoid her, but by stiffness of manner and resentful silence. He scarcely ever spoke to her, and the assiduous attentions which he had been so sensible of himself were transferred for the rest of the day to Miss Lucas, whose civility in listening to him was a seasonable relief to them all, and especially to her friend.

Here comes the decompressed story. (begin expansion)

To the extent any discussion was possible in the household, they had nearly exhausted the subject as well as the energy of those most passionate about its subject.  All that was left from Elizabeth’s emotional point of view was to bear the uncomfortable feelings that can be assumed to accompany such a spirited offer and its refusal, particularly in the face of such strong opposition to her own wishes.  It didn’t help that her mother would continue, on occasion, reintroduce her feelings by alluding to the situation Elizabeth had created.

This, of course, reintroduces the concept of how Elizabeth’s mother was cast by the narrator of the story to be something of a simpleton.  However, we have here yet another example of a frustrated mother, but one who is disciplined enough to know that a frontal assault upon Elizabeth’s sensibilities would be ineffectual.  Instead she pushed through allusion, and not incessantly at that.  This shows that Mom was both intelligent and restrained, despite the narrator’s attempts to have us believe otherwise.

Strangely enough, as if he wasn’t strange already, Mr. Collins does not appear to feel the need to express himself as being embarrassed, rejected in any form, or for that matter, any possible appearance of avoiding the former object of his alleged affections.  In a manner that is most familiar to today’s armchair psychologists, Mr. Collins is showing his aggression passively.  He is decidedly silent towards Elizabeth, and he is extra “stiff” in expressing his manners.  Something like a resentful robot, allowing those angry thoughts to remain suppressed and easily interpreted through childish actions.  Everything he does only reinforces Elizabeth’s original impressions of him.

The fact that he hardly speaks to her is greatly appreciated, particularly as he originally had such assiduous attentions in mind.  That they have been transferred to her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, is also appreciated.  Elizabeth feel particularly close to Charlotte, and feels to a large extent that her friend is “taking one for the team.”  The last phrase, however, is an incredible sleight of hand as far as foreshadowing the story is concerned.

For not only is this a relief to Elizabeth, but “especially” to her friend.

(end expansion)

There.  Of course, I haven’t tried my best to polish this expansion.  However, the text above is not unheard of in this day and age.  I’ve seen what passes for “modern” writing.

Jane’s excerpt comes to 110 words.

My explanation comes to 363.  Easily tripled.

Is this conclusive proof?  Of course not.

But I hope it intrigues you enough such that the next time you dig into the rich story that is P&P, you’ll ponder the incredible talent that puts so much information into such a small space.

When you do, perhaps you will react much the same way as when Elizabeth read Darcy’s letter for the upteenth time.

 Till this moment I never knew myself.

Decompress that!


The “Other” Other Woman


The other day my super politically reactionary cousin was defending Herr Drumpf as being a good example of a leader and gentleman.

You are.


I do my best to stay calm and level headed, so I asked what she thought about all the women who have come out and made statements about things that he has done to them?  Most of the things he’s alleged to have done were unwanted harrassment.

But there were also quite a few women who attested that they were quite happy “Doing the Dude” for any number of reasons.

My cousin’s reaction?

“They are all lying.  Women will do or say anything to get attention, especially at the expense of a famous man.”

This caught me by surprise.  There have been, and still are, quite a few famous men that don’t have a dozen women chasing them around with sexual allegations.

There also have been, and still are, quite a few women who generally tell the truth.

There also have been, and still are, quite a few men who are well known to make a habit of preying on women.

Finally, there is absolute evidence that Der Drumpf has cheated on his previous wives, evidence that was presented in divorce court.

So what’s the deal with my cousin?

I figured it out the other day, and here’s an article that helps lead us in the right direction.

It must have happened to her.

The only way my cousin would discount ALL women as liars, is if she has to believe that ONE women in particular, is also a liar.

Who is that woman?

Someone who threatened to come between her and her husband.

In order to save her own peace of mind, my cousin had to consider that “other” woman as a liar.  That means her husband was still faithful to herself, and that means that her marriage is sound.

It also means that my cousin has become the other other woman.  For it is she who is fooling herself about a relationship that no longer exists.

It also means that, of all the other women out there who stand by His Hole-ness for all his alleged sexual exploits, there’s a chance they are reacting like my cousin for similar reasons.

Is it possible that there is such a large population of “other” other women?

What do you think?


Emily Believes, Do You Believe, Too?

Rocking your World since 1884

In this day and age of political correctness and word games, the hottest topics are those revolving around:


The amount of confusion as to whether or not any news is true or false would be amusing, if it weren’t for the serious implications involved.

Emily was probably thinking along the same lines, although in a different context.  After all, asking someone “to believe” without convincing them completely has been going on since before there was language.

Consider this scenario.  A cave dwelling, some thousand centuries ago.  A young family huddles together.  Perhaps even several families, a tribe.  They may even huddle around a newly found discovery, fire.

The fire burns bright, but a young lad is curiously drawn to the darkness outside.  The moon is full, the stars are burning bright.  Mother dear, can I go outside tonight?

Absolutely not, she insists in no uncertain terms.  She doesn’t have the language to describe sabre-toothed tigers, giant pythons, and many other horrors of the dark.  But she can tell her son that he must remain.

Why?  But Why?

Because, she says.  The ultimate answer for any parent, before, and since.  You must believe me.  You must trust me.  Accept this as fact, as truth.

And this is what Emily touches upon.  Whether it is a religion, something hiding in the night, or whether Russians want to undermine American democracy, there comes a time when you must accept what someone tells you.  Whether you go beyond that in order to make up your own mind, well, that’s another story.

I never saw a Moor–
I never saw the Sea–
Yet know I how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in Heaven–
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the Checks were given–


Grandmothers Rule

There’s a book by Rudyard Kipling called “Kim.”

A young orphan boy grows up in the shadows of the himalayas during some of the greatest political intrigues of the late 1800s.  We learn of political struggles between the British Empire, the Hind, the Punjab, Afghans, Tibet, and even the Russians.

Mark Twain claimed to read the book at least once a year, it’s that good.

Here’s some excerpts from the very end of the book, where an old Kulu woman of Saharunpore tells us how the old and the young live together.

We who go down to the burning-ghats clutch at the hands of those coming up from the River of Life with full water-jars, yes, brimming water-jars.  …  It is true that the old eat the young daily.

Mothers have not the wisdom of our years.  If a child cries they say the heavens are falling.  Now a grandmother is far enough separated from the pain of bearing and the pleasure of giving the breast to consider whether a cry is wickedness pure of the wind.

When one cannot dance in the festival one must e’en look out of the window, and grandmothering takes all a woman’s time.

I watched my father make his way to the “burning-ghats” in his own way.  I’ve also seen neighbors and friends about my age doing the same thing with their parents.  It’s our turn to help our parents in this transition.  And it can feel as if they are feeding upon us.  How wrong is this, that we also fed upon them for many of our first years?

What strikes me about Kipling’s words, beyond their insight, is also how much they tell us about the strength of family relationships for that time, that place.

Consider the popular movie, Crazy Rich Asians.  The underlying theme is the strength of the family, the responsibilities of keeping everything working properly.  The father is never in the movie, ostensibly because he’s off taking care of the empire.  It is also the basis upon which the heroine is evaluated by the mother.

Family relationship ARE important.  It’s critical to have a baby, a mom AND a dad, and then some grandparents nearby.  We’ve been losing sight of this for many years, and it’s something many people never think about.

Hearing Kipling’s thoughts on the subject reminded me to think about it again.  And to thank all those families out there that still have all their parts.  Money doesn’t matter.  The health of the family does matter.  Love holds it all together.  And it’s the best way to grow the future.

Finally, consider what Kim and others say whenever something annoying happens.

It’s all one.


Dickinson Desires — Emily’s Envy

Rocking your World since 1884

According to the wiki entry for my new girlfriend, Emily, she led a fairly sheltered life.

Even so, a few young men may have ambled their way into her heart.

As fate would have it, their fate destined otherwise.  Emily got to know Death fairly well.  Almost everyone that she loved, or could have loved, Died.

However, as a young woman, especially one deeply steeped in the culture that was young America, it’s very likely that some of her thoughts may have included the occasional curiosity of companionship.

Uh oh.

Lucky for her, she went to church.  For a while.

Lucky for her, she had a protective Dad, Mum, and brother.

Lucky for her, she had her upright New England practicality and Bible thumping learning.

And, perhaps lucky for us, she was shy.  Painfully shy.

Yet, locked deep within her heart, were thoughts that she never truly voiced.  It’s too bad, but would the world have lost some of the passion in her resulting work?

Perhaps.  If I could meet her, knowing what I know, would I try to meet some of those deeper, emotional needs?  If I could divert her, it may make her happier, for the moment, but would it have reduced her impact upon the world?

I’m not sure, but true confessions here, I’d love to meet her and take her out on at least one date.  Maybe a church picnic.  Or two.

At any rate, take all those desires, those thoughts, those yearnings, those urgings.

Take what society tells us, take what our own practical sense tells us, and try to wrap it all up in the above 300 words.

Then, if you’re Emily, you say the same thing in twenty:

Forbidden Fruit a flavor has
That lawful Orchards mocks —
How luscious lies within the Pod
The Pea that Duty locks —

Nuff said.


Emily feeds the soul so it can sing

Rocking your World since 1884

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all
And sweetest in the Gale is heard
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —
I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

This is my wife’s favorite, and I can’t blame her.  So far it’s in my top nine, and that’s only because I haven’t read all of the other 1766 poems yet.

It’s pure.  It’s isolated in time and space.  We have absolutely no context as to who speaks, their history, their knowledge, their future.  We are suspended in the purest form of poetry amids images of storms, strange seas, chilly lands.  Yet we harken to the warmth of a song, a tune without words, someTHING that perches within our soul.

She says nothing about how that feathered thing got there in the first place, or what happens to it in the end.  Those are questions I burn to ask Emily, next time we meet.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find out, no matter how closely I read her work.  She’s famously shy.  And I’ll confess, even though I can be brusque,  the thought of confronting Emily and asking her such questions gets me nervous.  I’ll probably end up tongue tied and make small talk.

No kidding.

How’s that for emotional power?


Emily Dickinson and True Women

Rocking your World since 1884

There are some relationships out there in the wide world where younger men have chosen to befriend an “older” woman.  The word is in quotes because I’m not only referring to age, but to maturity, confidence, outlook in the world.

It’s no secret as to what society thinks men look for in women.  Young, interested only in pleasure both sensual or superficial.  Perhaps most ominously for our civilization, women are expected to be subservient, even dominated.  How many times must a young woman drop to her knees before she deserves respect?

What about these reverse relationships where it’s the young man and the “older” woman?  My guess is that these are men for whom superficial, subservient partners are unacceptable.  These are men who have chosen a higher path in life, respecting their partner for who they are, deep inside.

The most famous to my mind is Macron and his wife.  It may not have begun under the best of circumstances, but that isn’t relevant here.  No, they are together, and they appear happy.  More importantly, it could be a strong relationship between a man and a woman who are true to themselves.

Emily was such a woman.  She never found a partner who could accept her as she was, then again, she may not have been looking very hard.  She was ridiculously shy.

And, there’s a good chance that if she had a more romantic partner and a more conventional lifestyle, we wouldn’t have gems like this:

I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —
Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky —
Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —

These are not the thoughts of your average young woman.

They are the thoughts of a TRUE woman.

And here’s what I’ve learned from Emily.  It doesn’t matter when she was born or how the ripples of time move across her flesh.  The woman inside, the TRUE woman, is someone to be cherished, nurtured, protected, and enjoyed.  And for her TRUE partner, the same is their due.



Dreaming of Emily in Iambic

Rocking your World since 1884

I didn’t think it possible, but I found another girlfriend.  The old one was super smart, incredibly observant, and extremely insightful.  But there are times when that razor-sharp intellect can try a guy, especially on those nights I want to sit back and chillax.

Jane is intense.  You can’t totally relax around her, because that brain of her is always going a million miles a minute.  My friend calls it having a monkey mind.  Jane’s brain isn’t out of control, it’s just that it’s always active, piercing, probing.

By the way, if you’re looking for a date, she’s available, and open to any gender.  Check her out on tindr or match.  Search for “Jane Austen.”

I’ll never forget her, but I’ve moved on.  Now I’ve discovered Emily.  Emily is sweet, unaffected, shy to the point of being diagnosed clinically catatonic.  Seriously.

But her depth of feeling!  When I spend enough time with her, not pushing, not asking anything, just sitting with some tea, or going for a walk and not even holding hands, sometimes, she’ll open up.  The emotional intensity is pure, unadulterated power.  I don’t THINK I’m alive when I’m with Emily, I FEEL alive.

The other day we were alone, together but not really, wandering the woods while a good distance apart.  At one point I was looking straight up when a flock of geese flew overhead in formation, their standard “V.”  I must have moved my lips and pointing finger as I was counting them.  Counting is something I like to do, it relaxes me, and I’m a rather quantitative guy.

I felt a soft hand on my shoulder, so soft that I barely noticed.  When I realized it was her, I touched it, gently.  She removed her hand, and I turned to look at her.  She looked away and said …

It’s all I have to bring today —
This, and my heart beside —
This, and my heart, and all the fields —
And all the meadows wide —
Be sure you count — should I forget
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

I haven’t counted in her presence — since.


Emily Dickinson Makes Me Dream

Rocking your World since 1884

Hello Gentle Reader,

My big news is that I finished the book!  As finished as it can be without the insights of critical readers.  It’s in the hands of critical reader number one, and I’m biting my nails waiting for her verdict.  And her red pen marks.  I hope she likes it.  I don’t want to keep asking her, because I want her to enjoy it without any additional pressures.  She’s also fighting cancer, and other ailments, so there’s slightly higher priorities in her life.  But she’s had it a whole week!  What’s taking her so long?

Anyway, writing the book has allowed me to become intimate with Jane Austen.  I don’t have a problem telling you that I have a thing for Jane.  If she showed up at the door, I’d take her out for ice cream.  My wife might get jealous, but she’s invited as well.  I hope Jane has her flesh on.

In order to start relaxing after this 18 month ordeal, I’ve been doing all sorts of fun stuff.  Including picking up a childhood poetry book edited by Louis Untermeyer.  Great stuff.  In it I came across this poem about a narrow fellow who parted grass like a comb.  And I was hooked.

Since then I’ve been “dating” Emily.  I hope Jane won’t mind.  True, she is a slightly younger woman, but she’s still older than me.  Oh, but what incredible insights.  I’m going to share some of my new enthusiasm with you here, and we’ll start with this:

In this short Life
That only lasts an hour
How much — how little — is
Within our power

This immediately reminds me of Blake’s “To see a World…” yet with greater feeling.  There’s a cold audacity in Blake, while Emily is humble and vulnerable.  Blake inspires us, but Emily consoles.  There is something that she captures in words, an empathy, an assurance, an embrace that Blake will never achieve.  That she did this using tiny scratches upon a bit of paper is awe inspiring.  That it still communicates her emotions, tugging at my heart some 150 years later, is breath-taking.

So, my apologies to Jane Austen, my girl-friend for the last two years.  I will always honor you and never forget you.

But I’m going to be spending time with a slightly younger lady; for a while anyway.  Emily wrote almost 1800 poems, and it’s going to take some time working through those.  Add in strolling through the park, picnics, the odd romantic dinner, and tea parties, this is a relationship that I’m going to be enjoying for many years.

Stay tuned for updates!