The most important commencements, new beginnings, in my life have been the result of sorting out emotional, psychological equations.  And, listening to that “little voice inside,” when my behavior seems at odds with others.  Emily Dickinson’s “No Notice gave She, but a Change -” tells me that when my inner equilibrium is established I will know I am on solid ground.

No Notice gave She, but a Change –
No Message, but a Sigh –
For Whom, the Time did not suffice
That She should specify.

She was not warm, though Summer shone
Nor scrupulous of cold
Though Rime by Rime, the steady Frost
Upon Her Bosom piled –

Of shrinking ways – she did not fright
Though all the Village looked –
But held Her gravity aloft –
And met the gaze – direct –

And when adjusted like a Seed
In careful fitted Ground
Unto the Everlasting Spring
And hindered but a Mound

Her Warm return, if so she chose –
And We – imploring drew –
Removed our invitation by
As Some She never knew

The past couple of weeks, Amherst has been alive with friends and families for graduation ceremonies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Hampshire College and other schools, including those in Northampton.  It’s possible Dickinson may have written this poem during commencement season.  Rather than endorsing diplomas, or any other outward sign of self-reliance, this poet of considerable deftness, prowess and expertise, sends “No Message, but a Sigh – ”.  I like to read the first line of this poem as, No graduation notice gave she, but a pivotal change, nonetheless.

I wouldn’t want to say Dickinson is thumbing her nose at accreditation when, “For Whom, the Time did not suffice/That She should specify(.)” makes it clear to me that she is proffering study as a lifelong pursuit. Perhaps the lack of specificity in time and place for education is only part of the “difference” for some.

I wonder if Dickinson’s poem is a discussion of private destiny. If so, what can I learn from it?  In the second stanza, “She was not warm, though Summer shone”, again, suggests private conditions of immeasurable, frigid intensity, contrasted with an outer (lazy?) environment warmed by the sun. So wrapped up in what I’m doing I’m neither aware of the difference, “Nor scrupulous of cold”.  Certainly, the cause for such polarity between an inner terrain and its factual counterpart are not to be questioned: “Though Rime by Rime, the steady Frost/Upon Her Bosom piled – ”.

For all those friends and family who look at me and say I’m letting my life dwindle to my hand-picked pursuits, “Of shrinking ways – she did not fright/Though all the Village looked – ” all I can say is, I know what I’m doing.  There’s no clearer proof if the rightness to me of my decision about what to do with my life than the look in my eyes: “And met the gaze – direct – ”. If the eyes are the window to the soul, disturbance as well as poise and security will be apparent. Am I grounded in personal integrity? Look at my eyes. “And when adjusted like a Seed/In careful fitted Ground”.

The only thing hindering me, is the grave’s “… Mound.” I’m intrigued by the poem’s idea that death can only hinder, not stop, the work I do. If I’m contributing to “the Everlasting Spring” of truth, beauty, perhaps love, it will be taken up by posterity, and become, well… everlasting.  I think of how loved ones in my life who have died still contribute to my sense of well-being and continuity with all things eternal.

It’s a matter of choice, however.  I don’t have to stay home and write, read and tend flowers for hours and days on end. A lawyer doesn’t have to give away his time to a client unable to pay for needed services. A doctor could order unnecessary procedures.

The personal pronoun “we” reminds me that I hear myself even as I contradict those same voices appealing to, “Her Warm return, if so she chose – /And We – imploring drew – ”.  Some would give me different priorities and values.  Part of what is so valuable about a sense of destiny is that it is a choice. Even if it means the risk of being forgotten “As Some She never knew”.

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

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