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Places to Go: There is Another Sky by Emily Dickinson

Written by Rachael Norris, 16th April 2021

The Reader's Liverpool Hub Leader, Michelle Barrett, takes us on today's audio adventure and reads the poem 'There is Another Sky' by Emily Dickinson.

The theme for our readings in April is 'Balm for the Soul' and we hope the poetry, readings and recommendations we have chosen can help us stay connected over the coming weeks.

There is Another Sky


There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

Emily Dickinson


I love stories and poems which open up the natural world and carry you off to wild places. I spent most of 2020 reading Robert Macfarlane, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Tove Jansson and Nan Shepard. Through these pages I roamed the domed peaks of the Cairngorms, rowed on Nordic waters- passing ships with bobbing icebergs and pressed my palms, deeply, onto the moss carpeted trunk of a great oak in some great ancient forest.
From the safety of my sweet little yard I have been reminded by literature that 'there is another sky'. Many of us have travelled our own gardens over these past 12 months, retreating to our lawns, yards and even windowsills to immerse and observe. Emily Dickinson invites us to look up at the sky, to take notice, to imagine a world beyond. Looking up from my yard the sky is pale blue, cloudless but hazy, filmed in weak sunlight. It's framed by brick walls.
I visualise other skies- the deep, deep blue hues of Himalayan skies, the infinite blackness- star smattered sky which cloaks Borrowdale Valley in the Lake District. I'm also reminded that 'there is another sky' to enjoy each day, from my own yard. I start my day on Waterloo beach, close to my home, each morning- no sunrise, sunset or sky are ever the same. It brings me joy to know that there's always a new experience to be gained from familiar habits.
There are times when cabin fever sets in, times when my patch of gravel and brick walls feel not enough. But then I catch myself counting the mercury-like dew droplets which bead the leaves of my banana plant or I feel the air vibrate as a 'bright bee' weaves and 'hums' between my potted lavender. 'Never mind' I tell myself, 'never mind'. Emily enforces the here and now- 'here is a little forest, whose leaf is ever green: here is a brighter garden where not a frost has been'- urging us to focus in and appreciate what pockets of wildness and wildlife we have access to.
I read this poem and I feel extremely lucky. Having access to a small, space is a privilege.  Land ownership is a massive issue in England- half of England is owned by 1% of the population, with very little right to roam. Only 8% of natural England is accessible and only 3% of rivers. Many people dont have the chance to go out into nature and it's no coincidence that black and brown skinned people, as well as other ethnic minorities are 60% less likely to have access to natural environments.
Later on this month, The Reader will be reinstating outdoor Shared Reading groups in the beautiful garden of our head office - the Mansion House at Calderstones Park in Liverpool. We're inviting people who've been isolated, confined, deprived of human connection and nature to join us.
I chose this poem as a love letter to my sweet, safe yard and as a hopeful invitation. I'm staying local for the foreseeable with no travel plans on the horizon and so I cherish my doorstep chats with neighbours, the dawn chorus and I'm looking forward to inviting friends and family to share my space this summer- 'Prithee, my brother, Into my garden come!'

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