Weekly Gem #90 Willa Cather's Home
Location: This 'hidden gem' is located at the corner of Cedar and 3rd, in Red Cloud, NE (see Clue Me! Map). Willa Cather lived here for only a few years, basically the tweens and teens, residing for most of her life in big cities back east. But based on her writing, it would seem that wherever she lived, Red Cloud and the Nebraska plains were always her home. As in, 'where the heart is.'
Her boss, the magazine publisher S. S. McClure told her:
"that he does not think I will ever be able to do much at writing stories, that I am a good executive and I had better let it go at that."
Evidence to the contrary abounds ...
Even her writing about her own writing is impressive.
~~ Talking about her first book, O Pioneers! , she called it her second "first novel" because it was the book where she found her own voice: "This was like taking a ride through a familiar country on a horse that knew the way, on a fine morning when you felt like riding. The other was like riding in a park, with someone not altogether congenial, to whom you had to be talking all the time."
~~ Talking about the impact of moving from Virginia to Nebraska at age 9. "I was little and homesick and lonely . . . So the country and I had it out together and by the end of the first autumn the shaggy grass country had gripped me with a passion that I have never been able to shake. It has been the happiness and curse of my life."
She had a way of saying things that you might think, but can't quite put into words.
~~ “It's all very well to tell us to forgive our enemies; our enemies can never hurt us very much. But oh, what about forgiving our friends?” Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy.
~~ “People live through such pain only once. Pain comes again—but it finds a tougher surface.” Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark
She had a way of writing that made you feel and see the story, not just read the words:
~~ “And now the old story has begun to write itself over there," said Carl softly. "Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes for thousands of years.” Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
~~ “I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. The light and air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would only be sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass.” Willa Cather, My Ántonia
~~ “But she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one's breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last. All the strong things of her heart came out in her body, that had been so tireless in serving generous emotions. It was no wonder that her sons stood tall and straight. She was a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races.” Willa Cather, My Ántonia
And of course...
"The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers...I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." Willa Cather, My Ántonia
Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.
The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers...I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy.
Willa Cather Home
Why It's Interesting
The writing of Willa Cather will forever give us the opportunity to be transported back to pioneer life in Nebraska. Born in Virginia, her family moved to escape tuberculosis outbreaks. The transformation from life in Virginia to life in Nebraska left an indelible mark on a young impressionable nine year old. The seemingly limitless untamed land, the diversity of the people and their customs, and the extreme weather gave her a passion for this area that she was able to describe so poignantly.