Description of a Beautiful Person “Neighbor Rosicky” by Willa Cather (Feb. 2007)

Susan's Thursday morning note February 15, 2007 
Willa Cather's Collected Stories: Neighbor Rosisky
     Description of a kind man.

It seems like a long time since I’ve sat & typed to all of you!!   I have the coffee downed (proving I’m feeling better!) and ready to take on the day!   This week we got in all of Willa Cather’s titles again.  Have you ever taken the time to go through her books?  There are only a few authors that I wish would never stop writing – that would never stop having books available for me to buy of their titles.  When we lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and in Minneapolis, and in San Diego Stu & I would go on the weekends to used bookstores.  This was before the internet even existed.  I would always head right to the fiction & try to find any books by Willa Cather or Bess Streeter Aldrich.  In my living room, on my “sacred shelves of books that are part of me” I have all of these treasures.  All dating parts of my life.  All that I love to open when I want to escape into so many different worlds.  In Willa Cather’s Collected Stories I have the following paragraph marked from a short story entitled Neighbor Rosicky.  The main character was in the home of his daughter-in-law when he had a mild heart attack.  As she cared for him that hour here were her thoughts as she sat next to him:

But Polly sat still, thinking hard.  She had a sudden feeling that nobody in the world, not her mother, not Rudolph, or anyone, really loved her as much as old Rosicky did.  It perplexed her.  She sat frowning and trying to puzzle it out.  It was as if Rosicky had a special gift for loving people, something that was like an ear for music or an eye for colour.  It was quiet, unobtrusive; it was merely there.  You saw it in his eyes, – perhaps that was why they were merry.  You felt it in his hands, too.  After he dropped off to sleep, she sat holding his warm, broad, flexible brown hand.  She had never seen another in the least like it.  She wondered if it wasn’t a kind of gypsy hand, it was so alive and quick and light in its communications, – very strange in a farmer.  Nearly all the farmers she knew had huge lumps of fists, like mauls, or they were knotty and bony and uncomfortable-looking, with stiff fingers.  But Rosicky’s was like quick-silver, flexible, muscular, about the colour of a pale cigar, with deep, deep creases across the palm.  It wasn’t nervous, it wasn’t a stupid lump; it was a warm brown human hand, with some cleverness in it, a great deal of generosity, and something else which Polly could only call “gypsy-life,” something nimble and lively and sure, in the way that animals are.  Polly remembered that hour long afterwards; it had been like an awakening to her.  It seemed to her that she had never learned so much about life from anything as from old Rosicky’s hand.  It brought her to herself; it communicated some direct and untranslatable message.

I love the line “he had a special gift for loving people, like an ear for music or an eye for color – just merely there.” Do you have anyone in your past/present that comes to mind that just knew you?  That just loved you with his/her eyes?  I believe that every child, every middle aged one of us, and every elderly person needs to have just one picture in their head to claim of eyes that purely loved them.  That to me is a description of God’s eyes.  Pure kindness.  Pure understanding without us explaining a thing!   My dad had eyes like that – the only difference between this character, Rosicky, and my father is that the hands of my father were huge knobby farmer hands – and I loved that!   Memories – I love them!   Don’t forget the power of your eyes when you look at little children today, when you look at your family, when you look at anyone you meet in the grind of your day.  Your eyes communicate you – your eyes could change someones day.  When I taught middle school in the inner city of Minneapolis – one memory I have is being told, “If a child knows that one person in their life loves and cares for them – they can make it.”

Thank you so much for your business!   I hope you can come by soon – tea is waiting, and if you’re a coffee addict like me then we’ll brew some coffee, too (and don’t forget we’re open until 8:00 on Thursday nights!) I will make a real effort to keep the Willa Cather books in stock each week – they are all so incredibly different, with a lot to think about.  I encourage you to plug through them – eventually I know you’d find one that is “you!”  Have a great day!   Susan

Work Cited:
Cather, Willa.  Collected Stories.  New York: Vintage, 1992.