"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Posting early this week
in honor of Emily Dickinson's Birthday
Born this day in 1830
[died May 15, 1886]

Photo of Dickinson's House by Stan Lichens

"Eden is that old - fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.
How fair, on looking back, the Day
We sauntered from the door,
Unconscious our returning
Discover it no more."

~ Emily Dickinson ~


Does it bring you joy to indulge in an innocent little English usage error every occasionally (like that)? It does me! One of my favorites is the word hopefully. The handbooks will advise you that it means "with hope," as in, "I dropped my bike off hopefully" or "Hopefully, I entered the contest."

It does not mean "I hope," as in, "Hopefully I will win" or "Hopefully my bike can be fixed" (not to mention get rid of that passive verb). Even so, I like using it both ways, either way, ambiguously, whenever I feel like. Hopefully, you will agree with me when I say that we all need all the hope we can get!

What are you hoping for? What are the desires of your heart?

Do you get what you're hoping for
When you look behind you there's no open door
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?
--song by M. Masser / G. Goffin;
--sung by Diana Ross (and a few others)

I once came across a little proverb, so easy to remember, I didn't even have to write it down: "Want something long enough and you don't." It took me awhile to puzzle out the meaning. Once it starts happening, however, you grow to understand. It's not that you actively give up wanting or deliberately relinquish the object of your desire; it's just that one day you realize, hey I don't want that anymore, and in fact haven't wanted it for quite some time.

It's not so bad to stop wanting things you can't have. But it's also good to hope for what you might have. And the wisdom to know the difference. As Emily Dickinson says in one of her best loved poems:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all . . .

This stanza always reminds me of the Psalm: "Delight yourself in the Goodness of God and you will be given the Desires of Your Heart" (37:4). The trick, of course, is knowing what it is that you desire, what you're hoping for.

A few years ago in the Notre Dame Magazine, Elizabeth Austin told the story of a young friend who wanted to complete the last leg of an around-the-world journey. Asking his father's advice, he received this ambiguous reply: "I think it's a ridiculous idea . . . If it's just a whim forget about it. The only reason to do something like that is if it's your heart's desire. And if it's your heart's desire, then you have to do it."

The son was baffled: "What's that supposed to mean, my heart's desire?" Austin concludes her narrative with yet another conundrum: Discovering our heart's desire "must be, in the end, our heart's desire" (NDM, Winter 1997 - 98, p 79).

From some angles, Emily Dickinson's sequestered life appears so unruffled, but what about her heart's desire? What message did she discern when listening so carefully to that song without words, the one that never stopped?

Emily Dickinson
"We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won't explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain."

poem by Linda Pastan, (U.S. Poet, b. 1932)

In her poem, "Lists," Pastan says:

"I made a list of things I have
to remember and a list
of things I want to forget,
but I see they are the same list."

I wonder if it's ever the case that the same is also true of what we're hoping for?

Looking at it a different way, author Susan Jeffers recommends not a "Hoping Life" but a "Wondering Life": " . . . with the magic of wondering, fear of the uncertain is replaced by curiosity . . . pressure about the future is relieved when we live in a wondering world" (Embracing Uncertainty, 20 - 21).

E.g., not I HOPE you are reading my blog,
but I WONDER if you are reading my blog.

For more on Emily Dickinson, see
"Emily From Different Angles
on Kitti's Book List

Young Girl Reading
by French artist
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
1732 - 1806

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, December 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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