…clouds might start to come in and they were gently autumnal; they made the world look quietly soft

By the middle of October, the foliage was beautiful. It seemed that the colors had arrived somewhat late, and because there had been so little rain for so long people thought maybe this was why the trees were shy and would not change their color so vibrantly. But then they did! Then they did.

Here is a secret about the beauty of the physical world. My mother told me this when I was very small —  my real mother, not the nice mother I made up later to be with me — my real mother told me one day that the great landscape painters understood one thing: that everything in nature started from the same color. And I thought of this as I watched the leaves changing. You may think: Don’t be ridiculous! There are vibrant reds and yellows and greens! And there are. Yet, walking along the river, as I did more frequently now, but also walking down our narrow road, I saw this. That in the yellows and the reds and the greens, they were somehow springing from the same color. And it is hard to describe this, but as more leaves fell I saw this more clearly.  Everything seems to start with a kind of brown and it grows from there: The huge slabs of rocks that were on the side of the road were gray and brown, and the oak trees that turned russet were similar in color to the seaweed that I have described as being a coppery color, and the water, whether it is dark green or gray or brown, was of a similar hue.

I also noticed how, in the afternoons, clouds might start to come in and they were gently autumnal; they made the world look quietly soft as though it was already getting ready to tuck itself in for the night. I am only saying what a thing the physical world is!

Elizabeth Strout, Lucy by the Sea: A Novel (Random House, September 20, 2022)


Photo: DK @ Brant Point, Nantucket. October 2, 2022 @ 7:21 am.  See more pictures from Brant point here.

Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head / and pretend that he just doesn’t see?

Growing up in Harpswell, Maine, I was always conscious of the wind. The Atlantic Ocean was our front yard, and our house was completely exposed. Even playing in the woods as a child, I thought the wind was trying to tell me something.  I first heard Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind in 1973, during my last year in high school. Someone played it for me. Even though the song had come out 10 years earlier, when I was 7, I never owned the record as a young person. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t have anything to play the record on.

As a child, I sensed the wind had a restless, secretive quality. The song’s argument that the answers to life’s vexing questions are blowing around in the wind and that you just have to listen to hear them resonated with me.

From the start, I knew that “Blowin’ in the Wind” was a protest song, that the wind was a metaphor for a rising countercultural movement in the ’60s. But for years, I heard the song solely as a lyric.

Now I experience the song differently when I hear it on my iPhone and put the lyric in today’s context. After Dylan’s acoustic guitar opens the song, his voice is remarkably melodic and softly insistent.

As he sings, the line that catches my ear reminds me not to overlook what’s right in front of us:

“Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head / and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Many of us walk past people living on the sidewalk asking for money and either ignore them or never see them. That’s what makes the song so special: The words constantly take on fresh meaning.

But much depends on where you hear them. In 1978, I went to my first Dylan concert in Augusta, Maine. He performed “Blowin’ in the Wind,” but it wasn’t quite the same as hearing his original recording.  There were too many people there for the song to be personal, and the song’s intent was brought down to an earthly level. Like the wind, the song is best experienced alone.

~ Elizabeth StroutElizabeth Strout on ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, As a writer grows up, a Dylan song changes meaning. (wsj.com, July 11, 2017).  Elizabeth Strout, 61, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of six novels, including her latest, “Anything Is Possible” and her Pulitzer Prize winning novel Olive Kitteridge.


Notes:

  • Photo of Elizabeth Strout
  • Inspired by: True singing is a different breath, about nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.” By Rainer Maria Rilke, “Sonnet I.III,” in Duino Elegies & The Sonnets To Orpheus.

Miracle? All of it. 

lucy-barton-elizabeth-strout

At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn. A view of the horizon, the whole entire circle of it, if you turned, the sun setting behind you, the sky in front becoming pink and soft, then slightly blue again, as though it could not stop going on in its beauty, then the land closest to the setting sun would get dark, almost black against the orange line of horizon, but if you turn around, the land is still available to the eye with such softness, the few trees, the quiet fields of cover crops already turned, and the sky lingering, lingering, then finally dark. As though the soul can be quiet for those moments.

All life amazes me.

~ Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel


Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge.  Her new book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, was selected as An Amazon Best Book of January 2016.  The excerpt above is not representative of the storyline but Strout is a master at story telling.  “My Name is Lucy Barton” is highly recommended.

Check out the book reviews:


Notes:

  • Related Posts: Miracle? All of it.
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
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