It's strange to discover that Emily Dickinson, arguably one of America's best loved poets, published less than a dozen of her almost 1800 poems, preferring instead to compile her work in small homemade paper books or simply leave loose and unbound. Amongst that trove, these 'poems' (quotation marks because they are fragments really: one liners, messages, simple word play), all written across the backs of old recycled envelopes.
There's a certain loveliness to finding another's handwriting scrawled across some forgotten scrap. Seeing Dickinson's hand, reproduced unaltered, seems an unearned, tantalising intimacy. Did she intend for these ever to be seen? Were they notes to herself that she looked at again? Used elsewhere? Copied out and sent more fully formed, to be read by the one she wrote them for? That they are written on envelopes - physical conduits of messages - whether intended or merely as an act of thrift, seems overwhelmingly apt. Dickinson uses the shapes of the envelopes, the lines made by the folds, as visual props and/or inspiration for the words she grafts onto them. Layers of meaning. Both poetry and art object.
On first read much of what Dickinson has written is elusive, ungraspable, confounding even. But certain phrases stick and even more: seem to hint at the unsayable core of things. At the very least – and by that I don't mean the least at all – they are 'the gorgeous nothings' of which Dickinson speaks.
For many years I blithely ignored the rumblings about Gilmore Girls. Coming down too hard from the end of Party of Five? Feeling trapped in the terrible, last gasps of Dawson's Creek? Who knows. Finally, lured in by Netflix and the many, many times I'd heard it spoken about in loving tones by people whose taste I couldn't ignore, ten years after the first episode airs, one hour in, I'm hooked.
Describe the plot and you might well shrug: mother/daughter pair, small town America, bunch of loveable, kooky characters, little-to-no actual drama, little-to-no actual sex. But combine that with smart writing, great acting, Melissa McCarthy (before Bridesmaids), the best soundtrack (Pixies, XTC, Bowie) and pop culture references the like of (Loquet favourites) Little and Big Edie, it's a winner. It's hard to define what makes it cool. It just is. Comforting beyond belief, it's sweet but not too much. Clever but not head-achingly so. Nostalgic but without sending you down the wrong path. It's really about nothing much but that really doesn't matter. When you need junk food, that's all there is to it. This is the kind that won't leave you feeling sick.
What would we do without places like Kew? Not far from the centre of London, once inside its walls, the outside ceases to exist. We love its promenades of green, its river walk, its glasshouses and rhododendron dells. No matter how many times we visit (and we've visited A LOT), there's always something new (and we don't just mean in nature's wellspring).
Two recent discoveries that speak large of the little things: The Millennium Seed Bank at Kew's sister garden Wakehurst. Aiming to provide a means of preserving the world's plants for the future (one in five plant species are estimated to be threatened with extinction worldwide), Kew's Seed Bank not only holds seeds from all of the UK's native plant species but, working with more than 95 countries globally, is now the largest and most diverse wild plant species genetic resource in the world. Hidden underground in vast storage vaults are over 2.3 billion seeds – and these vaults are flood, bomb and radiation proof. Treasure worth guarding. Knowing places like this exist, wow, what hope and foresight.
Tucked away in a corner, Kew's Bonsai House seems no more than a home gardener's greenhouse after the splendour of the Palm or Temperate Houses. Step inside though and you'll be transported, whizzed straight back to childhood, where fairies were real and definitely lived at the bottom of your garden. Perfect miniature tree after perfect miniature tree. Sixty in total, the smallest standing at only ten centimetres high, the oldest one hundred and eighty years old. The twists of the trunks, the delicacy of the leaves, the knowledge of the time and skill it's taken to nurture … the sheer level of cute. Tenacity and daydreams. It's all wonderful.