Summer, Ántonia

XIX

The sky was my solace–the summer sky stretched across the world. A transparent canvas, yet vivid in its blueness, too light to label by the saddest shade. The heat would only intensify those colors, and I could run under it, the sky, for eternety. If I didn’t want to lie on the grass and stare into it at the same time, then, I even might have.

But I could never sit still, then. I had to do something. I had to make myself useful, not just to the people around me but to myself. When the one person to whom you don’t have to prove your value no longer exists, you have to find the next one. After papa’s death, I was then looking for that exact person.

And this person could not be mama, who was already devoted to someone I couldn’t deny. It couldn’t be Ambrosche, who had never yet been to the place where I stood then. It was either Jimmy, or myself.

How to explain? The boy who had taught me the tools with which to find my place in this inevitable, beautiful yet unwelcoming world. He was young and he was childish, quick to take on a disapproving eye whenever I did something we considered, without much doubting, to be “manly.” Young. Green, but not innocent.

But so was I. As children running under the same summer sky, in the early morning, with warm fingers wet with the dew, I wondered. Every moment of the gayness, the happiness that I showed everyone was mine, yes, and true to my nature. But as bright as lights were, there was a certain marsh of sadness simmering quietly underneath that I didn’t recognize, but feared, and wished to confide in someone else.

So when I told Jimmy that night something that I didn’t think I was saying before I did, I was actually testing these waters. Could they be shared? Could opening the door to this pool of melancholy enable me to face it myself?

But to him, despite his bookishness, summer was just the summer, and the things on his mind were fixed. He didn’t catch my hint, but instead, pointed at something that I, then, hadn’t realized was there. Hadn’t realized that someone had put it there, inside me, before I was capable of identifying it. Something I was raised to know as the truth.

“Why, jst like this; like yourself. Why do you all the time try to be like Ambrosch?”

The frankness to me now is endearing, and I wonder what I would have said if he’d asked me the same question five, or ten years after. When I realized how the marsh was not below somewhere, but it was up to my chest. When I realized that what I was seeing then, underwater, was actually the question he had asked. That all that time, that weight of sadness was something I wished to be able to ask myself, freely.

But then, my arms were tied without me knowing. It was easier, easiest, to say that to turn to Jim Burden–the center of my endless desire to give everything I have, and the endless desire to take everything he had. The bookish boy who was trying to find himself, yet without seeing himself in it. How he was always thinking, and yet, was always one step short of being thoughtful.

It was eaiser, then, to tell him. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”

Who did I mean by us? Did I mean my family, or in truth, was that unconscious puddle inside the water sending its subtle hin that in truth, it is me as an individual, and thereby everyone as themselves and alone.

But I was young, and I was grieved without knowing that I was. So that summer night, I just turned to the sky to rest my mind.

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5 Responses to Summer, Ántonia

  1. Michaela says:

    I loved how you described Jim as bookish. I never thought of how Antonia would react when Jim asked her why she was acting like her brother. The psychological questions that faced Antonia in this post were very thoughtful. Great job!

  2. kayleigh says:

    Really beautiful! You’re such a good writer. I am very intrigued by the ending of that chapter in the book, when Antonia says “us” referring to herself and “you” referring to Jim. I like how you brought that up. It’s as if Antonia is tied to other people and Jim is free.

  3. ilantrencher says:

    This was pretty interesting to read just because it took a different style approach. Instead of a more anthropological-type analysis, it views the world of the book from a simpler view. Perhaps the perspective tries to find beauty in the world that the book itself shows as a far less-than ideal place to live in?

  4. kurups says:

    Wow Diane I really enjoyed reading you blog post! I love the descriptive language especially the ending “So that summer night, I just turned to the sky to rest my mind”.

  5. Professor Seiler says:

    Diane, this is another gorgeous post. I’m especially stuck (in a good way) on the idea of the one person in the world to whom you do not have to prove your worth, and the effects of the loss of that person… There, and throughout this post, you’ve given us a more psychologically self-reflexive Antonia than we get from Jim’s point of view. (I think this psychological acuity might be what Ilan has in mind in his comment above.) Excellent work.

    FYI: your post resonates especially with Sachi’s and Kayleigh’s accounts of Antonia, too, which I encourage you to check out!

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