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Martha Ostenso

  • A softness was unfurling like silk ribbons in the pale air, and the earth was breaking into tiny warm rifts from which stole a new green.

  • It was a time of intense wonder in the north, after the long, harsh months when the heart is shut out from communion with the earth.

  • Mrs. Sandbo herself looked like wall paper, as if she had no sizable depth but a crisp, flat surface, the back of which would be gritty.

  • Far overhead sounded a voluminous prolonged cry, like a great trumpet call. Wild geese flying still farther north, to a region beyond human warmth ... beyond even human isolation ...

  • Lind heard the trailing clangor of the wild geese. Their cry smote upon the heart like the loneliness of the universe ... a magnificent seeking through solitude — an endless quest.

  • [They] would leave their tracks on pavement, if self-importance counted for anything.

  • There was this to be said about the enforced early rising: you saw the unbelievable dawn whether you wished to or not. It unfolded like a vast flower over the edge of the horizon.

  • A false vision was better than none.

  • The wild geese were passing over ... They marked the beginning and the end of the period of growth.

  • There was an infinite cold passion in their flight, like the passion of the universe, a proud mystery never to be solved.

  • There is too much doing — too little being! When we begin to get strenuous, life begins to grow intolerable.

  • The sun cast no rays, scarcely colored the sky around it, simply hung there on the earth's rim like the burning heart of creation.

  • The snow again. White, white net of beauty, net of dream, trapping the earth, trapping the helpless heart of life ...

  • Full summer was upon the land again, with its sweet, rich murmur of growth, its colored vapors, its warm, sweet somnolence, like the heavy drone of a golden bee.

  • 'It's remarkable — most remarkable, the way these people manage, from time to time, a tragedy or a near-tragedy to break the even tenor of their ways,' said Mr. Tingley, in a tone of half-humorous superiority, by which he considered that he distinguished himself, subtly and inoffensively, from 'these people.'

  • There was nothing so real on the prairie as winter, nothing so memorable.

  • ... as he talked his fingers caressed the strings of his guitar so that the very air about him seemed to breathe softly of music.

  • Time, designing slowly, swiftly; Time, destroying slowly, swiftly; Time holding, possessing the earth in its tender indifference.

  • The lush green of the fields became a rich gold that swayed sturdily under the wind and fell at last before the hands of the reapers.

  • The last burning seed of the sun had been dropped into the swamp of the meadow to the west, and in the idle water a flame grew. At the moment of dusk, remote and cool, like a frost-flower in the tranquil pastures of the sky, stood the evening star.

  • I don't see as it matters much how well you mean if it's harm you're doin' ...

  • Ah, life, life, how madly, how cruelly it raced along your pulses!

  • ... it was a sly trick of God's to give a man work to do — it kept him from asking questions that God couldn't answer.

  • But one had to go back to the beginning of things, always. Trace the thread of life — find the knot — untangle it.

  • Time was not something that passed. All eternity was but a single fierce stroke of rapture. Existence was all a weaving to and fro upon the same dim loom.

  • Thunder moaned low in the southwest, as out of the heart of some forlorn, purple sea whose tided agony, creeping forward, creeping and spreading, struck at last with a coil of livid foam upon the last headland spur of sunset.

  • Here and there on the branch of an oak a congress of leaves still clung, rigid as flakes of bronze.

  • Whatever misfortune came, he was always able to meet it by refusing to recognize it for what it was.

  • The curtain fluttered primly in the wind, like the short skirt of a little girl.

  • ... the earth was wet and dark, and the smell of it was a sweet bruise on the air ...

  • The past ... is a dim avenue down which we may walk and find the diverging paths of terror and beauty and passion ...

  • There's precious little comes of telling people what they don't want to hear ...

  • Growing old was simply a process of drawing closer to that ultimate independence called death.

  • ... once a man had thrust his hands into the soil and knew the grit of it between his teeth, he felt something rise within him that was not of his day or generation, but had persisted through birth and death from a time beyond recall.

  • Across the lake now, beyond the squat turtleback of Spite Island, rose the sun, a vast, wet, ominious ruby.

  • By mid-morning a rain as fine as silk spills was weaving over the lake.

  • Listen — man is a child of Nature. When he turns against his mother — he's done! He may not find out about it right away, but he will.

  • ... a man can break God's laws and be forgiven. That's what they teach us. But when he breaks Nature's laws, there's no forgiveness — and there's no escape. Sooner or later he pays the penalty, or his children pay it — or his children's children. It doesn't matter much. It must be paid.

  • A sickness ... defines margins, crystallizes the shape of things.

  • The willows were sharp with tiny new leaves like the ears of baby field mice, transparent and infinitely frail.

  • You have stirred the soil with your plow, my friend. It will never be the same again.

  • Religion is passionate, reckless, destructive, idol-smashing. It's a martyr burning at the stake. It's a crown of thorns and a cross.

  • Time passed so much more slowly than space.

  • God, what pathetic creatures had inherited the earth, to walk a little while with their eyes upon the stars and turn their gaze too soon upon the ground that held their feet!

  • Edith was a little country bounded on the north, south, east and west by Edith.

    • Martha Ostenso

Martha Ostenso, Norwegian-born Canadian writer, poet, screenwriter, humorist

(1900 - 1963)