Over 10 years ago I stumbled across A Country Calendar by Flora Thompson. It was the kind of thing I used to do...go to the downtown public library and just wander the shelves randomly picking at books. Anyway I read some (maybe all, but I doubt it) of this book and thought it had the most beautiful sentences I had ever read. But this was age before amazon and even after many years of searching I never found it. I did see many copies of her fiction trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford, but for some reason I could never get into it.
Anyway I was reminded of it recently and keeping with this modern age I ordered it online (not amazon, so they didn't win this round). I got it today and know why it stuck in my mind. You can open the book at random and read wonderful phrases, sentences and paragraphs...
This morning, a forgotten milk-can brought me out of bed early. Afterwords, in spite of the rimey tang in the air, I stood at my cottage gate, and was glad of it.
A pair of blue-tits have built between the double wooden walls of the tool-shed here, and I am able to watch them through a knot-hole in the wood from within, myself unseen.
August- It is strange how the counties personify themselves to mind's eye.
Dorset is a dairy maid, all curds and cream and roses. Wiltshire, a princess of the Stone Age, fugitive, aloof. You may tread on her vast spaces and breathe pollen-scented air for a month, and never once catch a glimpse of her; although most ancient of counties she still awaits her poet to interpret her....
upon the fourth of November, three swallows appeared in a sky deserted for the more than a fortnight by the last of their kind. It was a dull morning of east wind and cutting showers, and the shrill cries of the three birds may have been due to cold. Just as probably, they were hunger cries , for a keen wind clears the air of insects even more completely that frost....
It reminded me of another book I half read, The Long Loneliness by Dorthy Day. I never got past the first chapter but this line always stuck with me.
“Children all love to hear stories of when their parents were young, and their parents before them. It gives the child a sense of continuity.”
Both books carry such weight of a lost time. They speak to the best of a different world view, not the provincial or petty or prejudiced past, by where things were close and you were aware. Where the past is part of the present, not an object of study but..I don't know what, but whatever it is...it is gone. Yet you can almost remember them, these thing ring true.
But what child really hungers for stories of their parents and grandparent? That is for a grown child searching Ancestry.com. Maybe I simply want to remember the world that BBC and Masterpiece Theater have always assumed I knew.