Friday, May 28, 2010

The Eyes of the Amaryllis

We are still breathing sea air and watching unrelenting waves sweep up the sand. Here is a wonderful chapter book by Natalie Babbitt. She’s probably most famous for writing “Tuck Everlasting” (another fantastic book) but this was the first of her books that we read and loved. (Madeleine used it for a book report in 4th grade).

 The Eyes of the Amaryllis
Natalie Babbitt 1977

Jenny comes to stay with her grandmother along the ocean. Years ago her grandfather’s ship the Amaryllis was lost in a hurricane and everyday her grandmother scours the shoreline looking for a remnant of him. But as the figurehead sculptor says “what the sea gives, the sea takes”. A beautiful, mysterious story about the sea.

The journey that takes a traveler from inland places to the sea will follow roads that stay, in themselves, exactly the same, but they seem to change entirely. Carefree and busy, now leaf-shadowed, now blank and blinding in the summer sunshine, they stretch ahead importantly between green fields , and the air lies lightly on them. But by the time they have come within three miles, then two, then one, of their destination, they have turned submissive. The trees stand back and stand thin, and scrub pines appear, ragged as molting birds. The edges of the roads are lost now in drifts of sand, and the grass, thinner, like the trees, is rough and tall, rising, kneeling, rising, kneeling, as the breeze combs by.

There seems to be more sky here, a great deal more, so that the traveler is made aware, perhaps for the first time, that he moves along quite unprotected on the crust of the earth and might do well to move with caution, lest all at once he fall off, fall up, endlessly, and disappear. So he holds his gaze to the ground and finds that the air has grown heavy with new, wet smells, and the roads and everything around them look uncared for. But this is not the case. They are cared for with the closest attention- by the sea.

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