This Hill, This Valley

Hal Borland

This Hill This Valley.

“There is an awesome majesty about a July thunderstorm such as came this afternoon. It has been a hot day, almost sultry, with one of those steely blue skies that seems to have no clouds yet refuses to be honest blue. At about three o'clock the sky darkened, though with only a hint of cloud. Ten minutes more and the clouds were here, rising like a mist over the hills. The hush was so deep that even a bird call seemed overloud. The trees waited in the breathless air, leaves unrustled.

The clouds spread to cover half the sky. There was swish, far off, a sudden wind in distant trees. Lightning flashed, back near the eastern horizon, and the cloud banks were black in its glow.... Then the rain came down the river, too, a gray curtain.”

This passage is taken from a book I found in the library at Bear Mountain Lodge, titled This Hill, This Valley: A Year of Country Living, Spring to Spring. It's by Hal Borland, and was first published in 1941. The language is beautiful, poetic, even, and tells the story of the changing seasons on the author's small farm in a valley in Connecticut. I chose the rainy passage from the July chapter on purpose, since we here in Tucson are waiting for more of our own rains to come.

Later in the chapter, after the storm passes, the author writes thus:

“ A sweet serenity now possesses  the land. The struggle is now the measured reach toward growth and maturity. The green world is now fully green. The early rush for a place in the sun is over. Grapes fatten on the vine. Earliest apples show reddening cheeks. The pasture which Albert cut for ensilage is lush and green again. Wild blackberries ripen.

The struggle for life goes on, but the great haste of the green world is past. Even in the insect world a balance is struck. It is as though I were bidden to watch and listen and understand, to relax the little worries and know the big ones for what they are. It is as though I, too, were bidden to strike a balance of serenity.”

This Hill, This Valley is wonderfully evocative of a life lived far from the busyness and roar of the city, but with its own round of chores and work to be done. Spring to summer, and fall to winter, the rounding of the year comes vividly to life under the pen of Mr. Borland, with a timelessness that belies the original publication date of the book. Be sure to read all about it.

Copyright © 2004, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.