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Two Gems: Neil Armstrong and Emily Dickinson December 18, 2012

Posted by jayocallahan in Uncategorized.

Neil Armstrong was a Midwestern boy and Emily Dickinson grew up in Amherst in New England. They were very different but there were lots of similarities. They both knew how to concentrate. They both loved their work and did it brilliantly. Each of them knew how to withdraw in order to keep balanced and do the work they had to do.

Dickenson wrote,

“I dwell in possibility.

A fairer house than prose.”

They both dwelt in possibility. And in a way an impossibility. What are the chances that a teenage girl who loves to play the piano and sing run through the woods with friends will become one of the very great poets? What are the chances that a boy who flies balsam planes will be the first human being to stand on the moon?

They were both affected by war. Neil Armstrong nearly lost his life when the wing of his plane was cut in half flying over North Korea. He ejected and was lucky to live. When Fraser Sterns, a young man from Amherst, died in the Civil War Emily wrote to her Norcross cousins, “Let us live better children. It’s most that’s left to us.”

Neil Armstrong didn’t seem to enjoy the parties of the astronauts and families, but he could be found in the corner at the piano playing ragtime. Emily Dickinson could be found sitting in the darkness upstairs listening to a friend playing the piano downstairs.



1. marnigillard - December 18, 2012

Jay, love this capsule of two friends who may never have looked each other in the eyes but whose souls were sibs. I love thinking of Neil playing ragtime. And Emily running through the woods. Poetic prose.

2. Cathryn Wellner - December 18, 2012

Ah – I really relate to this one, as I sit in front of my computer and write to make sense of the world, to bring focus to what is bright and hopeful, to make some small difference on this glorious planet.

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