Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Cider with Rosie

Coldharbour; Sun and Snow, 1916 by Lucien Pissarro

Cider with Rosie is a classic British autobiography by Laurie Lee and not currently available in the US. I have started it a number of times over the years but never progressed very far.

A couple of weekends ago, I was poking around in the Book Nook (one of Atlanta's good used bookstores) and came across a 1984 illustrated edition put out by Crown Publishers. It is beautifully illustrated and I have been revisiting Lee's striking, almost glutinous, prose. He grew up in the Cotswolds of England in the 1920's, out in the country.

Here is his description of seasons.

The seasons of my childhood seemed (of course) so violent, so intense and true to their nature, that they have become for me ever since a reference of perfection whenever such names are mentioned. They possessed us so completely they seemed to change our nationality; and when I look back to the valley it cannot be one place I see, but village-winter or village-summer, both separate. It becomes increasingly easy in urban life to ignore their extreme humours, but in those days winter and summer dominated our every action, broke into our houses, conscripted our thoughts, ruled our games, and ordered our lives.

Winter was no more typical of our valley than summer, it was not even summer's opposite; it was merely that other place. And somehow one never remembered the journey towards it; one arrived, and winter was here. The day came suddenly when all details were different and the village had to be rediscovered. One's nose went dead so that it hurt to breathe, and there were jigsaws of frost on the window. The light filled the house with a green polar glow; while outside - in the invisible world - there was a strange silence, or a metallic creaking, a faint throbbing of twigs and wires.

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