Review: Rachel Peden, 'Speak to the Earth'

 

Speak to the Earth: Pages from a Farmwife's Journal

by Rachel Peden

Indiana University Press, paper, $19.95

Rachel Peden (1901-1975) experienced the life of a farm wife with a knowing heart. She recognized the hard realities of making a living off the land, while savoring the rewards of connecting, for instance, with the hornet that built its home of paper; or the indigenous plants that popped up in a well-tended garden, stayed a season and moved elsewhere; or the possum gathering leaves onto her tail, curling it and carrying the load to build a nest.

Peden is poetic or blunt, as the need arises, as she carries us through a year of observations. A typical spring entry: “The February day was ending in a cold sunset...a dazzling silver disk in a gray muslin sky…" And soon comes summer: “It is June and the wheat is ripening…The morning light is blue and gold, the color of contentment…”

The insightful foreword by Scott Russell Sanders and inviting drawings by Sidonie Coryn are lovely companions for this collection of brief essays. It is best savored slowly, read aloud in companionship with another or alone, for the sheer pleasure of hearing voice give flight to well-crafted prose. Originally published in 1974.

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