like mountains of the moon

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Here are some quotes from West with the Night  by Beryl Markham.  Markham was an aviator and racehorse trainer living in Kenya in the 20s and 30s - I'm reading it for book group and enjoying it very much. More on that soon, and I'm going to blog more frequently this week, so 'more on that soon' will mean just that and not what it usually means. (which is that it has fallen off the earth and into the deep vat of my good intentions.)

The first three quotes are about life in the air: I love her evocative writing - she gets across not only the sensation of flying, but of flying over Africa.  The last quote just makes me laugh.
Three hundred and fifty miles can be no distance in a plane, or it can be from where you are to the end of the earth. It depends on so many things. If it is night, it depends on the depth of the darkness and the height of the clouds, the speed of the wind, the stars, the fullness of the moon. It depends on you, if you fly alone - not only on your ability to steer your course or to keep your altitude, but upon the things that live in your mind while you swing suspended between the earth and the silent sky. Some of those things take root and are with you long after the flight itself is a memory, but, if your course was over any part of Africa, even the memory will remain strong. (p. 12)
Ahead of me lies a land that is unknown to the rest of the world and only vaguely known to the African -- a strange mixture of grasslands, scrub, desert sand like long waves of the southern ocean. Forest, still water, and age-old mountains, stark and grim like mountains of the moon. Salt lakes, and rivers that have no water. Swamps. Badlands. Land without life. Land teeming with life -- all of the dusty past, all of the future.

The air takes me into its realm. Night envelops me entirely, leaving me out of touch with the earth, leaving me within this small moving world of my own, living in space with the stars. (p. 15)


As the herd moved it became a carpet of rust-brown and grey and dull red. It was not like a herd of cattle or of sheep, because it was wild, and it carried with it the stamp of wilderness and the freedom of a land still more a possession of Nature than of men. To see ten thousand animals untamed and not  branded with the symbols of human commerce is like scaling an unconquered mountain for the first time, or like finding a forest without roads or footpaths, or the blemish of an axe. You know then what you had always been told -- that the world once lived and grew without adding machines and newsprint and brick-walled streets and the tyranny of clocks.  (p. 38)


Panic-stricken, the little pigs ran all directions, like mice in the dream of a tabby cat. (p. 91)

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