5/14/2008

:: peace like a river/pages 180-222 - beauty ::

[my drink of the week is espresso w/cinnamon]

As I read these pages, I discovered beauty. Mainly in Roxanna, who (whom?) I adored right along with Reuben and Swede. I'm not sure where to begin with Roxanna ~ her dry sense of humor, the way she nursed goats with a baby bottle, her instant rapport with Swede, her warm hospitality, her great uncle's cinnamon roll recipe (that icing!), the way she whacked Reuben's asthmatic back - like she was already part of the family somehow. She was a hardworking, kind, and independent woman.

But I thought Reuben's perceptions of Roxanna were fascinating. First, he stated, "I'm ashamed to recall thinking it was too bad Roxanna Cawley was not lovely." [pages 182-183] However, after spending some time in her house and feeling quite at home, Reuben witnessed this beautiful passage (and yes, I'm gonna type out every word):

"'Children,' Roxanna replied, turning to us. Though her eyes glittered she was not crying; in fact she pulled a smile from somewhere. Her hair was roped back in a French braid from which it was very winningly coming loose, and she held before her a picnic basket with a clasped lid. For heartening sights nothing beats a well-packed picnic basket. One so full it creaks. One carried by a lady you would walk on tacks for. Does all this make her sound beautiful to you? Because she was - oh, yes. Though she hadn't seemed so to me a week before, when she turned and faced us I was confused at her beauty and could only scratch and look down at my shoetops, as the dumbfounded have done through the centuries. Swede was wordless too, though later in an epic fervor she would render into verse Roxanna's moment of transfiguration. I like the phrase, which hasn't been thrown around that much since the High Renaissance, but truly I suppose that moment had been gaining on us, secretly, like a new piece of music played while you sleep. One day you hear it - a strange song, yet one you know by heart."
[page 196]

All of this did make Roxanna sound beautiful to me, but honestly, I already thought she was lovely. There was just something about her, and Jeremiah's early opinion of her - how at ease he sat at her table that first night, leaning back in his chair, tired & pleased. Even Rube observed:

"To Dad - so long without his wife - the particular formula of a meal, woman, and conversation must have seemed like a favorite hymn remembered."
[page 182]

The romantic in me burst out. I wanted nothing more than for this crew to end up as a real family. It was more than obvious that Swede & Reuben had fallen head over heels in love with Roxanna, but I kept trying to figure out, had Jeremiah? In my opinion, he respected her immensely. And coming from him, I knew for sure she was a great woman. But as for romance, Jeremiah seemed guarded. My inner-romantic kept hoping that love would bloom between this man and woman.

To tie this all up, I want to know - have you met people like Roxanna? Ones that society would deem homely, yet to you, and to many, they are Greek gods/goddesses? My Mom always told me it's more important to be prettier on the inside, and as cliche as that still sounds, I really believe it is true (thanks, Mom). Every time I conjure Roxanna's character, I do see a gorgeous woman; one I'd prefer over a runway model any day.

Also, help me out here.... I should know more about the play Cyrano de Bergerac than I do (please don't tell my high school English teacher) - but I believe Leif Enger's Roxanna is a twist on the classic drama of talented poet & big-nosed Cyrano and the beautiful woman he loved, Roxanne. Your opinions?

5 comments:

Libby said...

I wasn't sure about Roxanna at first-she seemed kind of crusty as i recall but i too fell in love with her.
I so agree with your Mom. I have known people that at first glance were not even pretty but then you get to know them and see their spirit/heart and they become so beautiful. I wonder if that is the Countenance (sp?) the Bible speaks of? I have also seen the oppositer where someone is physically beautiful but when you get to know them they become ugly.
I want to read this book again!! It is due at the library Sunday and i am sure there is a line but i think i'll check.

jenni said...

I'm not trying to break anyone's budget, but go ahead and buy this book. I bet Amazon has cheap copies. There are some books you just need to own, and this is one.
:)

Crystal said...

I didn't think about the Cyrano connection until you mentioned it. It could be.

I too found myself wishing that Jeremiah would emote a little more. That guys is hard to read. Or maybe it is just that an 11 year old boy doesn't recognize the emotions of a 40 something man. Although I did like the fact that Rueben recognized how good it must have felt for his father to experience a home and meal and woman and conversation again.

I think Jeremiah moving out into the Airstream was the greatest sign of love toward Roxanna that we saw in the book.

kate o. said...

like libby said, perhaps roxanna was a bit "crusty" at first, but i believe it was jeremiah (and the children) that softened her. here was someone who was quietly adoring her. her life was one that was evidently rough and lonely - the cold north, animals in the house, rough hands, alone in the house - and the lands brought life and warmth to it.

such a great part of the book.

jenni said...

I, too, loved when Jeremiah moved out. Whatta man; a real man.

I agree, Kate. Roxanna's first husband was a fool if he didn't see such warmth in her.