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Scent of Apples, Lead Me On and Carry Me Back But when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, upon the ruins of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.
He penetrated so deeply into the passing moments of his life that he fixed them, for us, and for all literate time. When other books disappoint, when sleeplessness comes in the dark of the night as it did to the narrator of Remembrance of Things Pastone can pick up any volume of Proust, open to any page, and be calmed and made happy.
Almost immediately, reading the introduction by Page Stegner, my Proustian literary antennae began quivering. It is the history of a small town called Eastend renamed Whitemud in the narrativewhere Wallace Stegner spent the most formative years of his childhood.
And it is also, by synecdoche, the chronicle of a process of white settlement on the northern plains, a process that reaches its climax and end in this particular short-grass subdivision of southwestern Canada. But Wolf Willow is utterly atypical of conventional history.
This, I think, is the book that will, finally, lead me into the work of Wallace Stegner, a writer whose novels have previously resisted my attempted incursions.
The first sentence of the first chapter is everything I want it to be: The town he finds has changed dramatically. He investigates further, inhaling the odor of the old bathhouse shack, sniffing a handful of mud.
I stand [on the bridge] above the water and sniff. On the other side I strip leaves of wild rose and dogwood.
And yet all around me is that odor that I have not smelled since I was eleven, but have never forgotten—have dreamed, more than once. Then I pull myself up the bank by a gray-leaved bush, and I have it.
The tantalizing and ambiguous and wholly native smell is no more than the shrub we called wolf willow, now blooming with small yellow flowers. For the moment, reality is made exactly equivalent with memory, and a hunger is satisfied. The sensuous little savage that I once was is still intact inside me.
Old apples along farm lane Is September more redolent of memory-evoking aromas than other months in the Midwest? Sun-kissed apples on trees or in the grass, warm to the touch, or rain-wet apples glistening on branches or bowls of apples on the porch on a rainy day, filling the dense, humid air with their perfume -- apples and sunshine or apples and rain — either conjunction holds volumes, and those volumes open to a succession of years.
During that season I imagined the tree my tropical island, where the staff of life was blossoms in place of bread. How seldom human beings look up!
They could have seen me much oftener than they did, but I was happy to be invisible, enjoying that childhood fantasy. Did the earthbound, pedestrian world have any idea what was happening above their heads?
We knew nothing of apple varieties in our family. One thing all three apple trees had in common was that the fruit would fall faster than we could usefully gather it up.
Learning to distinguish the two names sounding so much alike felt like a giant step forward to my three-year-old self. But punky, mushy brown, wormy apples had to be picked up, too. They could not be left in the grass to rot.It is the buoy, or perhaps the cannonade, that marks the beginning of high summer.
The early vegetables in the garden are over, and now is about the time when the lettuce thinks about bolting. The weeds along the lake edge are coming on thick and strong, and the ponds are . This is a begging letter, as my mother would have called it.
I am begging anyone who thinks they might have the slightest interest in coming to the next Writing Matters event on Saturday evening, June 20th, featuring the absolutely delightful children's book writer Amy .
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