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“These are my introduction”

March 4, 2021

15 of 40

Take all away —

The only thing worth larceny

Is left — the Immortality —

Emily Dickinson

When Emily Dickinson met an editor of the Atlantic Magazine, Thomas Higginson after the Civil War, it was after years of intense correspondence. They had connected as minds and words with an intensity that absence makes unrelenting.

In meeting she handed the editor friend two Day Lillie’s. I presume to be symbolic of life, and them. “These are my introduction” she is said to have said. Like all love in Emily’s life, it was of the mind and word until now, and as a book recounts her words flowed like a full gushing stream at their meeting.

I have so little knowledge beyond Emily’s own words, that offering any of it is a bit silly, but this bit, this moment, is crystalline.

Living in the mind is fully alive and fully distant. It is immortality. What you think is not young or old, sick or well, it just is.

I know someone who would be eligible to get the first plague vaccination this week. But the second was given a month ago. Why? Because it was arranged. As I, older, awaited my first two weeks ago, I was surround by even older, fully frail folk. Their shots had been delayed by the shots received by my friend.

My friend was fully healthy, a true follower of the Canons of Sequestration, avoiding, masking, judging. Fear makes for such devotion, and rationalizes breaking the Canons so devotedly followed.

Mortality is terrifying. And as normal as the sunset. When Emily addressed it from her mind it was central to life:

Take all away —

The only thing worth larceny

Is left — the Immortality —

Larceny happened for my fully, loudly, virtuous friend, because it forestalled even the tiny chance of mortality that her life presented until that second shot happened two months before this state’s Canon of Sequestration allowed it.

Death is the focus of any Lent, of one person, two thousand years ago. This Year In Lent has focused upon the deaths of millions, right now. There is a natural terror that ending happens. But it does not while you are alive. That conundrum can be suspended, even focused upon. I think Emily lived that. At least her words did.

God is the endpoint, and the flowers we get every spring, that is the conundrum made Easter.

When, after hours of rapid, intense words from Emily to the editor, she pressed another symbol into his hand, an image of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s grave. A 19th century version of the internet, where image confers immortality, in a way.

That, of course, is wholly inadequate, unlike the Lillie’s. But the Lillie’s are not enough for my friend, and me. But immortality does not live in a grave.

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