Saturday, February 11, 2017

My American

Many a night that summer she left Dr Archie's office with a desire to run and run about those quiet streets until she wore out her shoes, or wore out the streets themselves; when her chest ached and it seemed as if her heart were spreading all over the desert. When she went home, it was not to go to sleep. She used to drag her mattress beside the low window and lie awake for a long while, vibrating with excitement, as a machine vibrates from speed. Life rushed in upon her through that window - or so it seemed. In reality, of course, life rushes from within, not from without. There is no work of art so big or so beautiful that it was not once all contained in some youthful body, like this one which lay on the floor in the moonlight, pulsing with ardour and anticipation.

Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915)

The last few weeks have been filled with the madness and terror of the ascension of the new President of the United States, whose name shall not enter the attic.

At the same time that I was reading with horror of each new day of madness, I was reading Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark.  The experience was like diving into a cool pool. This portrait of the artist as a young woman, not a writer, but a singer, and the descriptions of the desert places where she grew up, and her time living in a cave once lived in by ancient cliff dwelling people, the wisdom and the intelligence of the writing which is so graceful and natural it seems not merely written but spun from the stuff of the earth itself, is a reminder that America does not need to be made great again.

It has always been great, from the culture of the indigenous peoples to the work of its great artists like Willa Cather.