Mary Austin

I have my grandmother’s copy of Land of Little Rain, but I see that it is now a Google Book, a Virginia e-text, a part of the Berkeley SunSITE, and a Gutenberg e-book.

This book describes things as they were in the nineteenth century when my various relatives arrived. At random:

I like that name the Indians give to the mountain of Lone Pine, and find it pertinent to my subject, — Oppapago, The Weeper. It sits eastward and solitary from the lordliest ranks of the Sierras, and above a range of little, old, blunt hills, and has a bowed, grave aspect as of some woman you might have known, looking out across the grassy barrows of her dead. From twin gray lakes under its noble brow stream down incessant white and tumbling waters. “Mahala all time cry,” said Winnenap’, drawing furrows in his rugged, wrinkled cheeks.

Weather does not happen. It is the visible manifestation of the Spirit moving itself in the void.

Oftenest the stream drops bodily from the bleak bowl of some alpine lake; sometimes breaks out of a hillside as a spring where the ear can trace it under the rubble of loose stones to the neighborhood of some blind pool.

Of the high Sierras choose the neighborhood of the splintered peaks about the Kern and King’s river divide for storm study, or the short, wide-mouthed canyons opening eastward on high valleys.

They speak a purer Castilian than obtains in like villages of Mexico, and the way they count relationship everybody is more or less kin.

The meal done without buys a candle for the neighbor’s dead child. You do foolishly to suppose that the candle does no good.

Come away, you who are obsessed with your own importance in the scheme of things, and have got nothing you did not sweat for, come away by the brown valleys and full-bosomed hills to the even-breathing days….


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Filed under Bibliography, Poetry

5 responses to “Mary Austin

  1. okay, okay, you’ve done it — I’ll pack the Austin to read in Baja too…

  2. That’s lovely. I read *A Woman of Genius* in a lit course in the 80’s and also *Cactus Flower.* Thank you for reminding me about Austin. I will download her books into my e-book.
    Oh, and I should do the same with Willa Cather’s work.
    I’ve got to get more Gertrude Atherton novels, too.
    These were our foremothers, as they used to say before feminists got shut up.

  3. I am amazed that I did not know Gertrude Atherton. She looks fantastic.

    And it does indeed seem that the feminists have been shut up.

  4. charlie

    happy christmas, Z :o)

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