Emily Dickinson: A Cloistered Life

I have always wondered if Emily Dickinson had a contemplative call. She kept to herself, avoided social situations, and wore white. One of her poems suggests her choice of a cloistered life.

A solemn thing — it was — I said —

A Woman — white — to be —

And wear — if God should count me fit —

Her blameless mystery —

A cloister is a covered walkway in a convent or monastery open to a quadrangle often filled with flowers.  As a New England Congregationalist in the nineteenth century, she would never have seen a cloister, but I suspect she made her own.  She was an avid gardener, tending the many flowers she mentions in her poems.

To her neighbors in Amherst, Emily was an eccentric and a recluse. Her life reminds me of 1 Samuel 16:7—The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. She wrote nearly 1,800 poems—about life and death, God and nature—many funny, many profound, discovered in a drawer after her death.

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