I am rereading my favorite Willa Cather novel, The Song of the Lark. This is a novel about a young woman discovering herself and her talent; of learning how to become herself as an artist. Thea Kronborg is an unusual person in her small Colorado town of Moonstone. She has a destiny that she cannot discern. Cather allows us to feel that unformed urge that is looking for expression; a young girl, unconsciously dissatisfied, but not knowing what it is or what it means. She is fiercely intelligent and stubborn. She must come to understanding music, feelings, actions entirely on her own terms in her own way. And Cather puts us there, allows us to feel the development of a unique artist as she finds her truest self.
As always with Cather the land is a full character. There is nothing ‘gooey’ in her descriptions of the young, undeveloped country: it is beautiful and dangerous, unknowable and indifferent. It has its own history, separate from human history. What a relief that she rarely gets sentimental about the place or the people who find themselves living, often stranded, in wilderness. Life is lived hard; death can come unexpectedly and must be incorporated into one’s world view. And yet, the indifferent physical world is beautiful when noticed by another of Willa Cather’s extraordinary women.