Over the course of the last year, I've read a handful of books written 1850-1900's. It makes me wonder where that America has gone? Yes, life was (is) often brutish and cruel, but what a sense of optimism, too. Giants in the Earth does an excellent joy of contrasting the hope and excitement of the pioneer with the drudgery and loneliness. (And the lovely personification of the earth, nature, storms as trolls/giants is notable) The contrast plays out in a single household between husband and wife. I'm much more familiar with the prairie stories of Willa Cather, the glorious golden future laid out in neat rows of wheat; the prairie soil turned by the plow and the contented grazing of cattle. And I've often wondered about the women's perspective on the prairie life: lonely, dirty, exhausting. But I understand the other perspective too: freedom, the pleasure of making the earth bear sustenance, of watching things grow, the satisfaction of the work of one's hands. Do you know about the locust plagues?
The thyme sprouts green on the windowsill. And the zinnia seedlings keep turning towards the afternoon sunlight flooding into the house. On days like this, I can imagine spring. The prairie is brown again, but anticipating. Soon the burndowns will begin and the flames will march across the prairie, sometimes so tall that you could imagine them as the Giants walking, devouring the leavings of hope and fear, until there is nothing but the everlasting rocks, and the fertile soil: a challenge to try once again to make a life sprout. A re-blackened slate.