Emily Dickinson’s Garden

A back view of the Dickinson Homestead in Amherst
A back view of the Dickinson Homestead and Emily’s garden in Amherst

Though Emily Dickinson is widely known for being a recluse that stayed in her room all the time and wrote poetry, Emily was actually an avid gardener and lover of nature. She and her sister tended to beautiful orchids in the sun room of Homestead. And down the hill (photo), they had numerous flower, vegetable, and herb beds – all of which could be seen from the window of Emily’s bedroom.

I used all of these elements while writing Dickinstein. Not only did it give me a chance to get Emily out of the house and interact in other scenes with other characters, but her appreciation of life and nature plays a very important role in the story. The hill of gardens you see pictured is even one of the many settings in the story.

Anyone who has read or studied Emily’s poetry will certainly find that Emily used nature, both animals and flora, as inspiration for many poems.  There are few poems of hers that don’t mention a flower or a bird or other small creature. The spirit of nature is certainly alive in her words.

This Memorial Day weekend as Spring draws to a close and Summer comes into fruition, I too have enjoyed my own backyard garden. You may have learned from my Urban Gardener posts that we have a small vegetable garden and several flower gardens. Many of our irises and alliums are in bloom right now as I write this. With the anticipation of Dickinstein being published in October with Rocking Horse Publishing, I’ve tried to take time out this season to reflect upon my own garden through Emily’s eyes.

There was a time in my life where I didn’t have much interest in the outdoors. Sure, I played outdoors but I did not care for gardening or getting my hands dirty.  Strange how our priorities change in life and now those activities give me solace. Like Emily, I have found a friend in a bobolink or a blooming flower. I share in the excitement she had over an early summer bloom, one she might have celebrated with verse.

And I believe I captured that in my story, at least I hope I did.  For that’s the Emily I wanted to write about. I wanted to shed light on a younger Emily, who cherished life outside her solitary room. And for your enjoyment,  here are some of our flowers growing outside our rooms:

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