Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

By Malcolm Cowley; Donald W. Faulkner | Go to book overview

I: Mansions in the Air

1: Blue Juniata

Somewhere the turn of a dirt road or the unexpected crest of a hill reveals your own childhood, the fields where you once played barefoot, the kindly trees, the landscape by which all others are measured and condemned. Here, under the hemlocks, is a spring. Follow the thread of water as it winds downward, first among moss, then lost in sweetfern or briers, and soon you will see the bottom lands, the scattered comfortable houses, the flat cornfields along the creek, the hillside pastures where the whitetop bends in alternate waves of cream white and leaf green. The Schoharie Valley in August... or perhaps what we find is an Appalachian parade of mountains rank on rank: the first ridge is a shadowy green, the second a deep blue; the ridges behind it grow fainter and fainter, till the last is indistinguishable from the long cloud advancing to hide and drench the mountains, flood the parallel creeks, and set the millwheels turning in the hollows and coves. Or perhaps-- our childhoods differ--we are on a low bluff overlooking the Cumberland. Northward into Kentucky, south into middle Tennessee, the river lands continue with their bluffs, their bottoms, their red-clay gullies, their cedars dotting the hillsides like totem poles. It is November: smoke rises from lonely tobacco barns; a hound bays from the fields where corn stands yellow in the shock.

-13-

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