The Dreaming Memory of Land

Here is a beginning rooted in geography. One of my favorites– not (this time) because of the author– but because here and throughout her book she so beautifully evokes Pittsburgh, where we both grew up.

When everything else has gone from my brain– the President’s name, the state capitals, the neighborhoods where I lived, and then my own name and what it was on earth I sought, and then at length the faces of my friends, and finally the faces of my family– when all this has dissolved, what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that.

I will see the city poured rolling down the mountain valleys like slag, and see the city lights sprinkled and curved around the hills’ curves, rows of bonfires winding. At sunset a red light like housefires shines from the narrow hillside windows; the houses’ bricks burn like glowing coals.

The three wide rivers divide and cool the mountains. Calm old bridges span the banks and link the hills. The Allegheny River flows in brawling from the north, from near the shore of Lake Erie, and from Lake Chatauqua in New York and eastward. The Monongehela River flows in shallow and slow from the south, from West Virginia. The Allegheny and the Monongahela meet and form the westward-wending Ohio.

And that there’s how it’s done. Sometimes.

My thanks (again) to Annie Dillard, this time for her An American Childhood.


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