Sunday, April 12, 2015

Everything Points to the First Rhubarb Pie

Nothing pleases my poor little would-be writer's heart more than discovering the work of a real, true writer. Someone who absolutely nails descriptions, ideas, and life-stuff to such a degree that I slow down just so I can savor the words. Such is the case with Verlyn Klinkenborg's book, The Rural Life, based on his New York Times column about life on his small farm in upstate New York.

The book sat on my shelf for a year or two, one of those situations where I read a good review of it and ordered right away (damn you, Amazon, for so easily indulging my biblio-cravings!) but never quite got to it. I mean, really, The Rural Life. What was I thinking? I am all city-girl. The rural life appeals to me not one iota, though I can stand 3-4 days at a time without bright lights, traffic, sirens, and people, people, people. Much beyond that and I start to wither a little (damn you, extrovert/A-type personality!). So, no, not a rural girl in the least. But what drew me to the book originally was the idea of getting more in touch with the seasons and changes of nature, plus having read many of Klinkenborg's columns in the Times. 

Somehow, winter seemed a good time to pick up The Rural Life and see what I might be missing in my brightly-lit world. The book is organized by months, and it was January, so, yeah. A good time to start. January. It's now April. I'm still reading. Here's the kicker: It's only 212 pages, and I'm only halfway through (July, if you're interested). But I find myself  re-reading chunks of chapters and whole chapters, just so I won't miss some glorious bit of prose. A yellow highlighter sits handy to underline phrases, sentences - yea, verily, even paragraphs - that must be mulled over and remembered.

A few, a very few, of my too-good-to-forget images from The Rural Life:
  • "Other seasons come abruptly but ask so little when they do. Winter is the only one that has to be relearned."
  • "A garden is just a way of mapping the strengths and limitations of your personality onto the soil."
  • "In this part of the world each day seems to bring a different, contradictory season. But everything points to the first rhubarb pie." 
  • "Everyone reaches for fullness in summer, but the fullness that most of us know best belongs to the memory of childhood. What was it that made summer days so long back then and made the future seem so distant? What was the thing we knew or didn't know?"
  • "The root of the New England character is incredulity, a state of chronic, weather-induced heartbreak .  . ."
The language speaks to me. The order of the words speaks to me. The soul-grabbing images speak to me. I want to remember all of this. I want that hope of the rhubarb pie, or trying to discover what I knew or didn't know all those summers ago. The writing demands deep reflection, something I'm not very good at. I'm working on it.

There is a slight downside to all of this, though. While I purely love exceptional writing, it does hit home that I will never achieve this level of expression. Oh, I can tell a pretty good story - and storytelling is so, so important, I get it - but I'll never write anything that demands yellow-highlighter proximity, phrases that must be remembered. Nothing that will ever point to the first rhubarb pie. But I can surely appreciate the ones to whom the gift has been given.

3 comments:

Liz Hinds said...

I'm like you, Mary: I can tell a story but those mind-reeling phrases?

Although I think you are far more adept than you claim. Your writing has a poetic quality. You choose words carefully and well. Creatively, artistically. Like your header photo. (Have I mentioned how much I love it?)

Aah, those summers. Of hope and dreams. Now they disappear too soon.

Caroline Carson said...

I want to read this now!! ALSO, I think your writing is fabulous :-)

MaryB said...

Liz, I love your stuff. I want to be more like you, especially your blog-writing. Somehow I've lost my ability to write short, spiffy, and more often. I will keep studying you!

Do read it, Caroline. His writing is glorious. And thanks for the kind compliment on my own writing. :-)