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Not quite ready to be Emily Dickinson yet…

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Dearest Friends,

It’s August 2020, coming up on six months of shut down, shelter in place, quarantine… Last year I remember saying to myself, I wish our world was more like Italy where grown kids live near their parents ( I don’t know if that is true, but that is my fantasy of Italian family.) In March I found myself living with my daughter and her boyfriend, who both fled the East Coast, my nephew who had come to housesit for me while I was supposed to go to Italy with two dear friends, and my son who travelled home from Vancouver, where he is at college, and his girlfriend back from college in LA. I was suddenly living with five young adults! At any time you could find my nephew teaching English to kids in China on line at all hours of the night, my daughter taking Arabic online from a course in Jordan that she was supposed to attend, and her boyfriend getting up to start work at 7 am NM time, 9 am NY time. My studio moved into my bedroom ( see above).

I have always had a side of myself that longed for what I called the Emily Dickinson life. Somewhere along the line I heard a story that Emily D never left her room, and her brother would send her up a basket of food to her second floor room with a rope. (This is probably every artists and woman's fantasy! Food appearing magically to the room they work in!) So in some ways the last few months have become much more Emily Dickinson-like. Life has gotten simplified in many ways, we are not running around doing a million different things, we’re not traveling a lot, socializing is not easy, and requires thoughtfulness. Life got sifted down to the essentials…family, friends, my garden, making food, and making art. Many people in my world have expressed a relief at having the volume of their lives turned down. My introverted friends and myself talk about the break from socializing, , and that we are validated for staying home. (Sorry extroverts, I know this must be rough on you.)

So that is one side of life at the moment, and of course it is just a sliver. And I am aware, a very privileged sliver. The country is in chaos, there is no leadership on a national level, unemployment is growing steadily, racial injustice is at a boiling point, and we are seeing through covid the lack of financial and medical safety net for the majority of the population. As much as I might fantasize about running away and living a solitary artist Thoreau-like life there is too much being asked of us right now. As John Lewis wrote in his final words in his Op Ed piece in the NY Times:

“He (Martin Luther King) said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

I have always struggled with the value of making art, somewhere inside I wanted to be a doctor saving lives, or a social worker, someone doing something tangible in the world to help. Art helps, I know that now. Music, painting, poetry, are places where our souls can go, and rest, and recharge. Art brings necessary joy. Art brings peace and tranquility. That is what I aim for in my art. I want my art, in your home, to be a kind of battery that you stare at while you’re eating your cereal, and your soul gets recharged. You take a little more peace and calm into your day with you. Art reminds us of who we are, when we forget.

While I am enjoying many parts of this pared down life , more nights in the vegetable garden than at dinner parties, family meals in my garden, more reading and cooking, an inward time, fully embracing my dream of the Emily Dickinson life is not an option yet. We are all needed right now . The soul of this nation, in John Lewis’s words, is waiting for us, each and everyone of us, to stand up and help redeem it. Now is the time. We are in the countdown to the November election. We must stay awake, and alert, and do whatever we can to turn the tide in this country towards a more just, loving, kind nation. The day after the current president was elected, although I was deeply depressed, I drew an image of a cheerful parrot. I was very confused about where that image came from. I think it is an image of deep optimism and hope that can emerge during the darkest times. I have kept drawing and painting parrots and parakeets for the last three years. Perhaps they will remind you of that hopeful place too.

Thank you for visiting my new website. I'm so grateful you came by. It would be my greatest happiness if any of my images offer you some solace or joy .

I’ll be posting some writing once a month. Just some thoughts on being a human, a woman, and a creative animal in this crazy time.

Big Love to you out there, dear friends,

(from my little Emily Dickinson corner)


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Hi Bettina, I have a part of me that dreams of having a family compound. I know that for now, i need to have a family compound for all my internal parts, that got pushed down in an attempt to survive my childhood. I am in that process now. The pandemic and the reaction to it, have given me fertile ground in this inward process. I love your new website, and your artwork is so joyous and calming to my soul. Much abundance as you go forward in life.



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