Dickinson, Winter, and Slants of Light

I’m tired of winter.

Earlier this week, it was nice out—almost 60 degrees, or at least, it felt it because we’re coming out of a cold winter—and I was able to take a couple of walks. This morning I woke up, got dressed, and then had to change because it was 20 degrees out and I didn’t want to worry about my legs freezing when I stepped outside.

This time last year, I got really sick with a head cold: I couldn’t breathe and even though Afrin gave my sinuses some relief, I could feel the moment it wore off and I went back to not being able to breathe at all. It lasted for a few days and I was hoping to ward it off with the frequent use of Nasacourt, which costs around $20, but unfortunately that’s not helping much at all. My nose is still stuffed and I’m still having issues with my ear, which I honestly should go to the doctor for (though the last time I went, I was told there was nothing wrong except for maybe something with my sinuses).

During the last week of this month, I’ll finally be moving onto Dickinson. One of the poems we’re meant to do is “There’s a certain Slant of light,” which on the one hand, I do really like: I know the light she’s referring to, I like the way Dickinson uses punctuation a lot. On the other hand, if it’s finally starting to warm up and stay warm by that point, I don’t want to think about “Winter Afternoons” (2) at any length. I want to be good and healthy, and I want to be warm.

For the next two weeks, I’m still in the transcendentalist mode. Dickinson is to me much more of a Romantic than a transcendentalist, but the two are tied together anyway (I’m not sure you can claim that Transcendentalism isn’t similar to German Romanticism) so we’ll be jumping from Thoreau to Dickinson and then April will mean Whitman, and then? I’m not sure.

In preparation for next week I should probably be talking about Thoreau and “Civil Disobedience,” which could be woven pretty well into Women’s History Month even though it was written by a man, because it talks about nonviolent protest, and it might be worth bringing up the movement for women’s suffrage in that case. I have time on Friday, so I could conceivably move from Thoreau to Dickinson. I don’t want to spend this entire month talking about dead white men.

So yesterday was windy and cold and I didn’t take a walk, but I want to go back to Dickinson and “There’s a certain Slant of light” for a moment. The punctuation functions as a style thing, but the dashes kind of slow us down as readers, make us take a little longer with the lines—not unlike how that “certain Slant of light” stops everything else for a moment. (Give me time, I’m getting back into poetry right now.) What’s Dickinson getting at when she says that “Heavenly Hurt, it gives us—/ We can find no scar”? Can light (not when made into a laser) hurt you? Not really, not physically, but maybe watching this late afternoon light drift in from the window or against the trees makes you feel something in your chest. It catches there and stops your breath and everything feels like it’s slowed down until the moment passes.

Not unlike guys such as Emerson or Thoreau, Dickinson is feeling something because of nature, and it’s something of a kind of divine sort, but it’s not altogether a pleasant feeling. Sometimes winter brings about some extreme feelings of depression (almost everyone in the northern hemisphere suffers from low vitamin-d), and you might have these moments when you are struck dumb by the glint of light coming into your room not because you’re filled with exhilaration as Emerson was, but because you’re overwhelmed by melancholy. Winter is beautiful, sometimes, but it’s also capable of making us feel absolutely miserable, even when we’re safe inside our homes.

So I’m sick of winter, and I’ve got a feeling that Dickinson, despite writing about it frequently enough, was getting kind of sick of the SADD blues, too. As much as I like being overwhelmed by emotion thanks to nature (who doesn’t? Enjoying nature is the easiest way to reach the sublime), I’m not so fond of being miserable all the time.

I’ll get through the next few weeks with an abundance of vitamins and cold medicine and water, maybe, and I’ll know that it’ll happen again in a year, but we’re supposed to be getting snow this weekend and I don’t know if I can bear it.


Author: jillboger

Part time writer. Editor-in-Chief for the Bridge volume 13, former EIC for The Odyssey at BSU. My glasses protect my secret identity.

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