Earlier in November I had the opportunity to visit Amherst College as a part of my job. I’d never been to the area, but a college is an alumni and told me all of the cool places to go. While having breakfast with students, I had a couple of hours to use up before my next appointment and I asked them: what should I do? Where should I go? The thing about college towns that I love is that there’s always history and culture within walking distance from the campus. One student ran down the list of things I could venture out and do. Within the list she said, “Emily Dickinson’s house.” My eyes lit up. I could walk to Emily Dickinson’s house?
Five minutes later, I’m practically at the front door contemplating whether or not I wanted to take a tour. Something about the idea of being a stranger and entering into such an intimate space…I hesitated.
Where I’m from, the politics of intimate space speaks volumes to the relationship with the visitor. You come to a house and depending on who you are determines where you remain for the visit.
- Potential hostile visitor/complete stranger: you do not get onto the porch.
- Someone like the mail man who you know but not too well: porch and fully-open door.
- Solicitor: porch (because they rang the door bell) but partially-open door.
- Neighbor: Den/Living room/kitchen, maybe. Bathroom only for extended visit.
- Distant Family: Den/Living room kitchen only if you’re definitely feeding them.
- Immediate Family: all rooms of the house.
So who was I? Centuries later, a “friend” only because I read some of her intimate writings? I wasn’t a potential hostile visitor, but I felt I could better honor her and her writing and life by thinking of her and what it means to be a writer today–and will apartment studios be turned into museums? Whose apartments?–and dreamed a bit about my own career.
Then I kept on down the street.
———– UPCOMING READING ————