I had picked up a book by Wallace Stegner “All the little live things” (1967), and I immediately fell into a time and place because of a beautiful sentence.
“One minute I was looking out my window into the greeny-gold twilight under the live oak, watching a towhee kick up the leaves, and the next I saw that the air beyond the tree was scratched with fine rain.”
-the air beyond the tree scratched with fine rain…” I put the book down, I closed my eyes and could see the rain scratching the air. Such is the power of a well turned sentence. And I am in awe of it.
I treasure a well done sentence above jewels. I collect them and occasionally bring them out and ponder them with amazement. This ability with just a few words to place a perfect stranger in any setting the author wishes, anytime, anyplace. The author Stephen King (2000) in the book “On Writing’ (Superb) explains as only he can do just how amazing the time and place machines engaged in writing are. Get the book “On Writing” by Stephen King and read it, it’s wonderful.
But when It comes to sentences, I’ve already found my personal favorite. This is the sentence I turn to make sense of the world when all else fails me. It was written by a brilliant woman/mother/nurse/scholar/author named Elizabeth Berg and it’s as good as anything my hero Steinbeck ever wrote.
It’s from Berg’s (1995) book “Range of Motion”.
“I am living on a planet where the silk dresses of Renaissance women rustled, where people died in plagues, where Mozart sat to play, where sap runs in the spring, where children are caught in the crossfire, where gold glints from rock, where religion shines its light only to lose its way, where people stop to reach a hand to help each other to cross, where much is known about the life of the ant, where the gift of getting my husband back was as accidental as my almost losing him, where the star called sun shows itself differently at every hour, where people get so bruised and confused they kill each other, where baobabs grow into impossible shapes with trunks that tell stories to hands, where rivers wind wide and green with terrible hidden currents, where you rise in the morning and feel your own arms with your own hands, checking yourself, where lovers’ hearts swell with the certain knowledge that only they are the ones, where viruses are seen under the insistent eye of the microscope and the birth of stars is witnessed through the lens of the telescope, where caterpillars crawl and skyscrapers are erected because of the blue line on the blueprint– I am living here on this planet, it is my time to have my legs walk the earth, and I am turning around to tell Jay once again, “Yes, here.” I am saying that all of this, all of this, all of these things are the telling songs of the wider life, and I am listening with gratitude , and I am listening for as long as I can, and I am listening with all of my might.
Be kind to yourself, remember “Elizabeth Berg” and get some of her work. I’m off to finish Wallace Stegner’s “All the little live things” (1967)…
Berg, E. (1995). Range of motion. New York, New York: Random House, Inc.
King, S. (2000). On writing. New York, New York: Pocket Books.
Stegner, W. (1967). All the little live things. New York, New York: Viking Press.