Emily Dickinson’s poem 260 begins, “I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody, too?” The words of this great 19th C New England poet make me wonder who is out there now writing or painting in obscurity – just because it gives them joy, or hope, or because they’re pregnant with an idea that has to be born, or because it's something they have to do so that their heads won’t explode, or because they can’t find a portal to the outside world but keep creating despite.
The caricature of Dickinson as the eccentric, isolated spinster writing poems and shoving them in her drawer for no one to see is dashed when you visit her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. The stern expression emitting joylessness from her portrait doesn’t give away her playful spirit. You can look out the window in her bedroom near her writing desk where she would lower treasures down on a rope to young neighborhood pirates. You can walk through her gardens and catch a glimpse of her kaleidoscopic vision, seeing the whole wild universe in a humble blade of grass. Dickinson was privy to something that seems much more valuable than had she succumbed to fame in her lifetime. Her secret was herself discovering and expressing the fine art of being through her direct experience of nature.
As we scramble to brand and sell ourselves as Somebodies, as the media scrambles to sell us and our kids the line that we can all achieve Somebodiness by buying/wearing/using this thing, I wonder if Emily Dickinson doesn’t have a more potently creative message? I just wonder, if we weren’t so intent on trumpeting the special unique snowflakes we think we're supposed to be, if we’re depriving the world of the special unique snowflakes that we are and the creative work that only we can do?