Gathering is peculiar, because you see nothing but what you’re looking for. If you’re picking raspberries, you see only what’s red, and if you’re looking for bones you see only the white.
If only she were a little bigger, Grandmother thought. Preferably a good deal bigger, so I could tell her that I understand how awful it is. Here you come, headlong into a tight little group of people who have always lived together, who have the habit of moving around each other on land they know and own and understand, and every threat to what they’re used to only makes them still more compact and self-assured. An island can be dreadful for someone from outside. Everything is complete, and everyone has his obstinate, sure and self-sufficient place. Within their shores, everything functions according to rituals that are as hard as rock from repetition, and at the same time they amble through their days as whimsically and casually as if the world ended at the horizon. Grandmother thought about all these things
“Now I’ve got you!” Sophia cried. “Yesterday you said there wasn’t any Hell!” Grandmother was annoyed and sat up angrily. “And I say exactly the same thing today,” she said. “But this is just a game.” “It’s not a game! It’s serious when you’re talking about God!” “He would never do anything so dumb as make a Hell.” “Of course He did.” “No He didn’t!” “Yes He did! A big enormous Hell!”
Sophia wanted only to hear about Venice, and especially about the dark canals that smelled of must and rot and that each year pulled the city farther down into the mud, down into a soft black slime where golden dinner plates lay buried. There is something very elegant about throwing the plates out the window after dinner, and about living in a house that is slowly sinking to its doom.
“All I said was that when you’re as old as I am, there are a lot of things you can’t do any more …” “That’s not true! You do everything. You do the same things I do!” “Wait a minute!” Grandmother said. She was very upset. “I’m not through! I know I do everything. I’ve been doing everything for an awfully long time, and I’ve seen and lived as hard as I could, and it’s been unbelievable, I tell you, unbelievable. But now I have the feeling everything’s gliding away from me, and I don’t remember, and I don’t care, and yet now is right when I need it!”
Every year, the bright scandinavian summer nights fade away without anyone’s noticing. One evening in August you have an errand outdoors, and all of a sudden it’s pitch-black. A great warm, dark silence surrounds the house. It is still summer, but the summer is no longer alive. It has come to a standstill; nothing withers, and autumn is not ready to begin. There are no stars yet, just darkness. The can of kerosene is brought up from the cellar and left in the hall, and the lamp is hung up on its peg beside the door. Not right away, but little by little and incidentally, things begin to shift position in order to follow the progress of the seasons. Day by day, everything moves closer to the house. Sophia’s father takes in the tent and the water pump. He removes the buoy and attaches the cable to a cork float. The boat is pulled ashore on a cradle, and the dory is hung upside down behind the woodyard. And so autumn begins. A few days later, they dig the potatoes and roll the water barrel up against the wall of the house. Buckets and garden tools move in towards the house, ornamental pots disappear, Grandmother’s parasol and other transitory and attractive objects all change places. The fire extinguisher and the axe, the pick and the snow shovel, appear on the veranda. And at the same time, the whole landscape is transformed.
My review of The Summer Book