Thursday, October 25, 2007

Willa

"All the years that have passed have not dimmed my memory of that first glorious autumn. The new country lay open before me: there were no fences in those days, and I could choose my own way over the grass uplands, trusting the pony to get me home again. Sometimes I followed the sunflower-bordered roads. Fuchs told me that the sunflowers were introduced into that country by the Mormons; that at the time of the persecution, when they left Missouri and struck out into the wilderness to find a place where they could worship God in their own way, the members of the first exploring party, crossing the plains to Utah, scattered sunflower seed as they went. The next summer, when the long trains of wagons came through with all the women and children, they had the sunflower trail to follow. I believe that botanists do not confirm Fuchs's story, but insist that the sunflower was native to those plains. Nevertheless, that legend has stuck in my mind, and sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom."

"I used to love to drift along the pale yellow cornfields, looking for the damp spots one sometimes found at their edges, where the smartweed soon turned a rich copper color and the narrow brown leaves hung curled like cocoons about the swollen joints of the stem. Sometimes I went south to visit our German neighbors and to admire their catalpa grove, or to see the big elm tree that grew up out of a deep crack in the earth and had a hawk's nest in its branches. Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons. It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape that made detail so precious."

"All those fall afternoons were the same, but I never got used to them. As far as we could see, the miles of copper-red grass were drenched in sunlight that was stronger and fiercer than at any other time of the day. The blond cornfields were red gold, the haystacks turned rosy and threw long shadows. The whole prairie was like the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed. That hour always had the exultation of victory, of triumphant ending, like a hero's death — heroes who died young and gloriously. It was a sudden transfiguration, a lifting-up of day."
-excerpts from My Antonia by Willa Cather

Good writing gets appreciated around here. (At least by me, Friend #7, and Friend #12.) Willa Cather stands tall in my book; I never tire of her honest style. When I see through her eyes, I know I am looking straight at a thing. What brought her to mind today was a song I am learning composed by Libby Larsen called "Bright Rails". The lyrics are culled from Willa Cather's writing. The writing is simple yet compelling; it lulls me into dreaming I am dressed in nineteenth-century garb, dozing on a passenger train while it sings over the prairie.

How smoothly the train runs beyond the Missouri;
even in my sleep I know when I have crossed the river.
They run like running water,
like youth running away...
They spin... along their bright rails singing and humming,
singing and humming, humming.
They run remembering.
They run rejoicing, as if they too were going home.
How smoothly the train runs beyond the Missouri.

1 Comments:

Anonymous brietta said...

Loved that book. (Danica's probably wondering why it's still on my shelf instead of hers!)

4:22 PM  

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