When the heart yearns for a particular person, he or she appears from somewhere at one point of life. It may happen in dreams or with a meeting of the psyches. Spiritual teachings say, "O ye who believe, trust the miracle of being, and it shall be!" From my life experiences, I have gathered that the power of positivity is unimaginable. I cannot walk you through times and events that shaped my opinion, but I shall narrate a life experience: to believe or not, is up to you, dear readers.
Last year, on the day before Christmas, I was wandering around the downtown of Amherst, a time full into winter. It was deep in my creative mood, ready to enjoy the holiday and the respite from my imposing boss. I was aware of the 'crunch, crunch' of my boots breaking into the crisp snow as I window shopped from the stores standing along the streets. My eyes feasted on the white world of snow where coloured lights added festivity to the small town. The shop windows had displays of Santa Claus, reindeer, and other holiday decorations. And all around me echoed snatches of Christmas carols. The winter evening set in and the sun gave off the final light before dipping out of sight from the western horizon. As I crossed the local post office I felt a tug on my heartstrings and approached the West Cemetery on the right of the post office. I felt being pulled into the place where Emily Dickinson, my favourite poet was buried. Nothing unusual I thought, it was the close affinity I always felt to the Massachusett's legendary poet. The scenic beauty of Amherst had tied my soul to her through all seasons since I started living in Amherst. However, on that day, I felt as if someone was beckoning me, leading me on by the hand to the cemetery. I remembered that the last time I had visited the Emily Dickinson Museum, her presence in around that house was vivid. And that day, inside the cemetery, her psyche was holding my hands, guiding me into an unknown world. A few steps into the sacred ground, and I became aware that Christmas carols were echoing all around the graveyard and voices were reciting Dickinson's poems. I looked around but could not see anyone, and yet the place seemed to be humming with life. The songs and poems penetrated deep into my mind, like echoes from a cave. I was transferred to a mystic land of departed souls. An aura of Emily Dickinson and other souls surrounded me.
If I had expected a solitary walk in the West Cemetery, the place of the eternal silence, I was mistaken. I could feel the presence of people, though I could not see them clearly, hazy forms of men and women were moving around. They were very much there, but I could not touch them, I was transported to space and time deep in the past. Women in billowing skirts and men in tall hats as seen in the paintings I had seen of the 17th and 18th century were moving around. As I walked on. I felt fearful of where the approaching night was taking me and I blurted out to the night, "Oh dear, what is going to happen, where am I going?" I heard a distinct sigh beside me and hesitant footsteps paused as if to listen to me. Had someone been walking with me? For an answer, I heard a soft, gentle voice, 'It's your heart that brought you to our gathering for Christmas. Had you not so longed to see me?'
I stopped dead in my tracks. At my right, I could fathom a familiar figure standing beside me. All the gentleness and sweetness I had seen in the pictures of Emily Dickinson seemed to radiate from the figure. I knew it was her, it was Emily's spirit. My belief that a spirit continues to inhabit the human world after death was firmly established at that moment. As I stared at Emily's spirit, the blending of our two poetic souls was complete. I took a deep breath, I needed that additional air to keep me going. I walked deeper into the burial ground and Emily walked with me. We had the perfect harmony of steps while she was quiet with understanding of my need to take in the miracle of our meeting. Finally, I managed to overcome my stupor and said, 'Hello Emily, I'm honoured to have you with me. I had no idea that I would really meet you.' I spoke softly, as if loudness would drive her away. I spoke out aloud but my voice didn't sound normal at all, like I was talking in a dream. However Emily seemed to understand me. With a tilt of her head and a sweet smile, she took my right hand and gave it a friendly squeeze. The warmth of her hold seeped through the layers of clothing I wore and I was not cold anymore. My heart was bubbling like summer streams in that winter night. Me, from Bangladesh and my American beloved poet, we bonded like soul mates, both transcending through our time zones. As we moved deeper into the graveyard, the voices I had been aware of earlier became louder. Besides Emily, other people were moving around us, or shall I say their spirits? There was a mystery in the air and I could feel a giving into creative moods from all the spirits. Voices were reciting Emily Dickinson's poem "Death".
"Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
As we moved along the pavement, eyes fell on the different kinds of tombstones. Poetry recitations and hymns were pouring out from deep within, as if that was a special day for the departed souls to read poems. I could catch snatches of Emily Dickinson's other poems too. The voices reminded me of cicadas that sing in summer days. But they were not lamenting for the world left behind. Rather, there was peacefulness in their voices, an acceptance of inevitable mortality. I felt my spirit reach a tranquility of its own, I was at peace in my world and beyond, at that moment I was not afraid of death. Emily's hand reached out and patted me on my shoulder, sort of reading my thoughts. "We die but our work remains in the world, like your poems and mine." She remarked as we strolled on. I pinched myself, asking my inner self, 'Am I still alive or dead?' My eyes fell on all the graves around me. With every reading of the names on the headstones I could hear voices, as if the buried people were reaching out to Emily and myself. My eyes fell on a grave that was marked very simply on a square shaped stone. A woman's form sat on the stone and smiled at me saying. 'Oh I see you have finally found our Emily, we knew how badly you wanted to meet her.'
There was a soft laugh, like the tweet of the morning bird from Emily and she said to me, 'How can we not meet, we two are free spirits, our hearts are captivated by love and nature. Lands and seas cannot keep spirits apart. Tulip, you live in Amherst, it was my home too. ' Somewhere an owl hooted and I rubbed my eyes to make sure that I was awake. Was I dreaming? But Emily knew just what I was thinking for she said, 'Oh you are awake, very much alive. But on this day you got lucky and got your wish to meet me and other spirits. You are safe and will go home soon.' Suddenly the silver light of the moon fell on the grave yard and I tried to take a closer look at Emily's face. I longed to take a closer look at those lovely, large eyes, the delicate nose and the smiling lips set on the very sweet face. True to the pictures I had seen, there was an aura of pureness in her whole poetic self. All this time, the frozen world of winter was bursting with liveliness of the spirits and a sense of timelessness had descended all around. My brown skin and Emily's fairness did not cause a ripple in our soul connections. We were poets in love with life. The night dug in and gusts of chilly wind began to blow. I gathered the lapels of my coat closer, seeking warmth. As Emily and I walked, I wondered what had brought me to the cemetery that day. Things happened for a reason, and I sought answer in my own puzzled self. We were passing by a large tree when I heard a voice from its trunk. I was not surprised, trees are living things and I have been in the habit of talking with them. I could tell trees my secrets and they would understand. The boughs moved up and down as the voice came, "I'm the oldest tree in this cemetery you know and one to witness death. I wait, for with all living things I too will be taken on my time, maybe I will witness your burial too." 'What do you mean? How do you know I'll be buried here? Is death near me?' I asked, puzzled. I felt goose bumps. Was my coming end the reason I had been led to the grave yard? As I waited for the tree to answer me, the branches stopped moving and the people, or rater the spirits suddenly vanished. But I could hear voices singing on, 'Silent night, holy night All is calm, all is brightﾅ' Just then icy snow fakes touched my face. I had been too absorbed with the happenings to notice that it had started snowing. Snowflakes fell like angels' kisses all over me. Feeling an emptiness beside me and I turned, hoping to catch another sight of the angelic apparition that had been giving me company on that strange night. But there was no Emily, no more of her spirit. As if to see her bid farewell, my eyes caught her receding figure, moving farther and farther away into a nothingness. But she was smiling like sweet image I held in my mind. 'Please Emily stay a little longer.' I said softly but she was no longer beside me. Her voice came, penetrating into the night, 'It was a good communion of spirits. In our world of creative hearts, the living and the dead at times meet through our spiritual beings. I was happy to see you. On my behalf, please spread the beauty of nature and peace in the present restless world. We both love Amherst, don't we?" I stood in the quiet cemetery giving into the deepening night. I was sad but Emily's spirit left me content, my creative thirst had been filled with the sweetest wine. I whispered into the darkness, knowing she will hear me, 'Emily, thank you. You have given me a sense of purpose and I will continue your mission to spread truth, love and nature with my poems.' As I moved toward the gate of the cemetery to go home, Santa Claus passed in his carriage, the reindeer and bells jingling away. It was midnight and I had no idea how the last hours had sped by.
Life is strange. Burial places are supposed to give messages of the end. But for me, Emily had given me new beginning to believe in my work. I have to continue writing about how amazing life was. You see I never believed that death ended our beings and after die, if you read my writing, my spirit will surround you with love. After all we are told, "O ye, who believe, trust in your being and life's secrets shall open to thee."
Please note: The story is a work of fiction. Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA