When I was eight years old, my brother Greg gave me a collection of Emily Dickinson poems titled Judge Tenderly of Me. I still have the book in a box of keepsakes. Its tall, narrow shape intrigued me and I loved the deep tapestry of colors on the front. Emily and I hit it off immediately. She wrote like I thought. And she was funny in a way that made my throat swell. I read everything I could about her; I memorized all of the poems in the small book and kept it next to my bed. Emily and I were already confidantes from across the centuries. The Belle of Amherst with her baskets of letters and need for solitude kept me company as my family moved around the midwest and I learned to keep my own company first.
I had already started writing my own poems and stories, but I didn’t show them to anyone but my mother. I had a diary too, although I didn’t know what to do with it as evidenced by entries that began with a weather recap: “Today it snowed. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Mom worked late.” As usual, I was trying too hard to get it just right and thought that a diary had to be an actual accounting of my activities for that day. Soon enough, I traded diaries in for notebooks where I could write my own poems and thoughts, a habit that I have kept to this day.
The book my brother gave me opens with these lines:
This is my letter to the world/That never wrote to me, –/The simple news that Nature told,/ With tender majesty. /Her message is committed /To hands I cannot see;/ For love of her, sweet countrymen, /judge tenderly of me!
I could ask no more than that from each of you who come to this place where I write about the world I see and the things I think about. I believe writing is an act of faith. And words still matter greatly. I hope you see some of yourself reflected in what you read here. I hope you write a note if so moved. Most of all, I hope to create a space where we can all just be ourselves. Welcome!