Beautiful wintry quote from the novel Doctor Zhivago

wild-rabbit-running-in-the-snow“I love the warm, dry winter breath of the cellar, the smell of earth, roots, and snow that hits you the moment you raise the trap door as you go down in the early hours before the winter dawn, a weak, flickering light in your hand.

“You come out; it is still dark. The door creaks or perhaps you sneeze or the snow crunches under your foot, and hares start up from the far cabbage patch and hop away, leaving the snow crisscrossed with tracks. In the distance dogs begin to bark and it is a long time before they quiet down. The cocks have finished their crowing and have nothing left to say. Then dawn breaks.”

— from Doctor Zhivago (Chapter 9, Varykino) by Boris Pasternak

Castles in the Air

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Image from Unsplash.com by Anthony Delanoix 

I learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live that life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

–Henry Thoreau, Walden

I was thumbing through a book today and found this quote by Thoreau that is not new to me, but which I hadn’t read or thought about in many years. It seems like a perfect quote to start the new year with, and one I need to remember, which is why I’m putting it here (and coupling it with this beautiful photo of the Brooklyn Bridge by  Anthony Delanoix).

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Image from Unsplash.com by Anthony Delanoix

Clouds Given Their Marching Orders

 

“You know, Opal,” I suggested hesitantly, “have you ever thought that the only ugly things in this Cove are man’s fault, while the beautiful things are God’s work? Look at those mountains.” We were sitting on her front steps and her eyes followed mine to the far horizon where the blue peaks melted into the skyline. Always I had to take a deep breath when I looked, really looked at the amplitude of beauty all around us. Only now in the late afternoon with twilight coming on, it was a delicate beauty, not so spectacular as usual. The sky overhead was an inverted bowl with a pale blue lining; over the far mountains, rose faded to peach, with tiny gray clouds looking as if they had been given their marching orders to tramp as majestically across a twilight sky as small clouds can.”

 – Excerpt from Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel, Christy

 

I was a teenager when I read Christy, the well-known novel by Catherine Marshall about a young woman whose coming-of-age story takes place in the poorest region of the Appalachian mountains, where she has signed on to be a missionary. That was so many years ago (I’m in my 50s now), that I don’t fully remember all that happened with Christy, but what I do remember is Marshall’s arresting descriptions of the mountain scenery and its people. There is a description of one of the mountain ladies, a woman named Fairlight, handling a fine teacup for the first time, and how when the cup was empty of its contents, she cupped it in both hands. “‘Feels good,’ she said wonderlingly, ‘like silk to the skin.’”  It’s a simple description, but so visceral and so true to the experience of holding a piece of warm china, that I am reminded of it every year when I bring out the china service that I inherited from my grandmother for my holiday meals. (I should probably let it be a reminder of the beauty of having that china service and a reason to use it more often, but I am terribly addicted to drinking my caffeine from a large mug rather than a dainty cup.)

I’m not sure if I would enjoy the novel as much as I did when I was young, but of all the books I read in my youth, this is the one that I most think about revisiting. Heidi would be the other one. There is something about mountain life that is so romantic to me, though if I ever did live in the mountains, it would have to be in an area like Switzerland, where the sky is far more prevalent than the trees.

 

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Boxer, looking like a cloud (or like an aardvark). He often reminds me of thunder when he’s running in the upstairs bedrooms of our house: he moves so fast, and his tiny feet are surprisingly loud as they scamper overhead.