in June

Cather spent much of her childhood in Red Cloud, six miles up the road, and for many people who love her writing, and perhaps for some who don’t, the Cather Prairie is one of the loveliest places on earth. You park at the top of a hill and follow a path down to a gulch, where a creek widens into a pond. At the bottom, you no longer see traces of modern civilization, though you can hear trucks on Route 281 as they clamber out of the Kansas flats. The land here was never plowed, and with careful cultivation it preserves the prairie as Cather roamed it, in the eighteen-eighties—an immemorial zone of grass, trees, birds, water, and wind. You can picture one of Cather’s pioneer women—Alexandra Bergson, the canny farm owner in “O Pioneers!”; Thea Kronborg, the budding operatic soprano in “The Song of the Lark”; Ántonia Shimerda, the buffeted heroine of “My Ántonia”—coming over the top of the hill. When I was last there, in June, the sky was a blaring blue and the hills were a murmur of greens. The air was hot and heavy enough that thoughts evaporated from my mind. I lay under a cottonwood tree and listened to leaves and grass swaying . . .

–Alex Ross ‘A Walk in Willa Cather’s PrairieThe New Yorker

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