“Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human -presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets witnessed.”
– Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
It is mid January – the 17th to be exact. The northland winter surrounds me, the city life holds me tight within the cold days and white abounds. Although people are everywhere one hears the quiet of the cold. There is only the crunch of feet on snow and ice. A cracking in a limb as ice in the veins of the tree break the branch lose from the trunk. No words pass between hurrying souls as they run for the bus or the heated car. We are wrapped in the solitude of winter.
It is this same time each year that I go seeking a different solitude. I begin my preparation for spring. This comes with the tasks of sitting alone reading last years garden journal, sorting through old and dirty seed packets, eyeing the bright colors of new crisp seed catalogs and planting as few seeds to watch them spout under lights. This last step gives me bits of green to rest my eyes on while waiting out the long final months of winter.
This time also includes curling up on the couch with Kingsolver’s book Prodigal Summer. It is a re-read for me each winter. Of all her books it may be considered a sleeper. I don’t know who else has read it or what kind of attention it received. It does not carry the weight of Poisonwood Bible. Yet for me it reaches a deep place in my soul. It is a story of understanding families and neighbors. It is about a relationship to the land and the natural world around us. It is about holding on to and letting go all at the same time.
This story walks you through the heavy springs rains with lines like
“She loved the air after a hard rain, the way a forest of dripping leaves fills itself with a sibilant percussion that empties your head of words.”
Then moves us in the ripeness of spring –
“Everywhere you looked, something was fighting for light, the kiss of pollen, a connection of sperm and egg and another chance.”
With time we are reading deep into the green of summer – the fireflies, the smell of Honeysuckle floating in the air and the chores of keeping a farm running – the “old” chemical treatment vs. “new’ organic ways.
Kingsolver always has her cause laid deep within the core of descriptive phrases. She hands us the issues of our forests, farming and families wrapped in struggles, tears and love.
It is a book that feeds the naturalist farmer in me. It takes me back to my family farm and long walks in the woods. It is a book of the color green, the sounds of rain and the moth flicker on the window screen on a summers night.