The previous posting had many quotes from Beryl Markham’s book, West With the Night, whoever actually wrote it. Here are a few more that I couldn’t let pass.
Like all of us, the death of a good friend left a blank hole in Markham’s life.
“Denys was a keystone in an arch whose other stones were other lives. If a keystone trembles, the arch will carry the warning along its entire curve, then, if the keystone is crushed, the arch will fall, leaving its lesser stones heaped close together, though for a while without design. Denys’ death left some lives without design, but they were rebuilt again, as lives and stones are, into other patterns.”
If you ever meet an elephant in the wild and think they are noble creatures who will recognize your good intentions, you will be glad you read this:“The popular belief that only the so-called “rogue” elephant is dangerous to men is quite wrong—so wrong that a considerable number of men who believed it have become one with the dust without even their just due of gradual disintegration.”
I don’t quite understand this, but maybe you will. It is an old Croatian saying, she tells us. “Life is life, and fun is fun, but it’s all so quiet when the goldfish die.”
Many women will agree with this:
“I had never realized before how quickly men deteriorate without razors and clean shirts. They are like potted plants that go to weed unless they are pruned and tended daily. A single day’s growth of beard makes a man look careless; two days’, derelict; and four days’, polluted.”
She visits her father who has built another farm with new houses, houses that leave her cold. I felt the same about my parent’s retirement condo.
“The character of a dwelling, like that of a man, grows slowly. The walls of my [guest] house are without memories, or secrets. or laughter. Not enough life has been breathed into them—their warmth is artificial; too few hands have turned the window latches, too few feet have trod the thresholds. The boards of the floor, self-conscious as youth or falsely proud as the newly rich, have not yet unlimbered enough to utter a single cordial creak. In time they will, but not for me.”
Her feelings about returning to Africa describe mine when I revisited our old high school a few years ago.
“Seeing [Africa] again could not be living it again. You can always rediscover an old path and wander over it, but the best you can do then is to say, ‘Ah, yes, I know this turning!’—or remind yourself that, while you remember that unforgettable valley, the valley no longer remembers you.” I know what she means. Revisiting our old high school, I remembered the corridors with the built-in lockers, but they no longer remembered me.
She said this preparing for her flight across the Atlantic alone, but her descriptions of other flights were even more scary.
“I could say to myself, ‘You needn’t do it, of course,’ knowing at the same time that nothing is so inexorable as a promise to your pride.”