Willa Cather

Willa Sibert Cather, Nebraska's most noted novelist, was born in 1873 in Virginia.  At the
age of ten, she moved with her family to Webster County, Nebraska, and lived on a farm
there for two years before moving into the town of Red Cloud.  Cather graduated from the
University of Nebraska in l895.  While attending the university, she was a drama critic
for the Lincoln Journal.  Cather wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and novels, winning
many awards including the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
In 1922 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours,
about a Nebraska farm boy who went off to World War I.
Read more about Willa here.

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Where there is great love there are always miracles.


I kept as still as I could.  Nothing happened.  I did not expect anything to happen.  I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more.  I was entirely happy.  Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge.  At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.  When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

She used to drag her mattress beside her low window and lie awake for a long while, vibrating with excitement, as a machine vibrates from speed.  Life rushed in upon her through that window -- or so it seemed.  In reality, of course, life rushes from within, not from without.  There is no work of art so big or so beautiful that is was not once all contained in some youthful body, like this one which lay on the floor in the moonlight, pulsing with ardor and anticipation.
The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own.
Art, it seems to me, should simplify. That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole.

The history of every country begins in the heart of a man and a woman. . . . And now the old story has begun to write itself over again.  Isn't it queer; there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this county, that have been singing the same five notes over and over for thousands of years.


No one can build their security upon the nobleness of other people.


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I like trees because they seem more resigned
to the way they have to live than other things do.


Human love was a wonderful thing, he told himself,
and it was most wonderful where it had least to gain.


The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces
or voices or healing power but upon our perception being made finer,
so that coming suddenly near us from afar off, for a moment our eyes
can see and our ears can hear what there is about us always.

Sometimes a neighbor whom we have disliked a lifetime
for his or her arrogance and conceit lets fall a single
commonplace remark that shows us another side, another
person really; one uncertain, puzzled and in the dark like ourselves.

The dead might as well try to speak
to the living as the old to the young.


There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.


We come and go, but the land is always here.  And the people
who love it and understand it are the people who own it—for a little while.

The great fact was the land itself, which seemed to overwhelm
the little beginnings of human society that struggled in its
sombre wastes. It was from facing this vast hardness that
the boy’s mouth had become so bitter; because he felt that
men were too weak to make any mark here, that the land
wanted to be let alone, to preserve its own fierce strength,
its peculiar, savage kind of beauty, its uninterrupted mournfulness.

Give the people a new word and they think they have a new fact.

The sky was as full of motion and change as the desert beneath it was
monotonous and still,—and there was so much sky, more than at sea,
more than anywhere else in the world.  The plain was there, under one’s
feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world
of stinging air and moving cloud.  Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it.
Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the
floor of the sky.  The landscape one longed for when one was away,
the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!


The condition every art requires is, not so much freedom from
restriction, as freedom from adulteration and from the intrusion of foreign matter.

Art and religion (they are the same thing, in the end, of course)
have given people the only happiness they have ever had.

Desire is creation, is the magical element in that process.
If there were an instrument by which to measure desire, one could foretell achievement.

Nothing is far and nothing is near, if one desires.
The world is little, people are little, human life is little.
There is only one big thing—desire.


The world is always full of brilliant youth which fades into grey and embittered
middle age: the first flowering takes everything.  The great people are those
who have developed slowly, or who have been able to survive the glamour
of their early florescence and to go on learning from life.


One realizes that human relationships are the tragic necessity of human life;
that they can never be wholly satisfactory, that every ego is half the time
greedily seeking them, and half the time pulling away from them.  In those
simple relationships of loving husband and wife, affectionate sisters,
children and grandmother, there are innumerable shades of sweetness
and anguish which make up the pattern of our lives day by day, though they
are not down in the list of subjects from which the conventional novelist works.


It does not matter much whom we live with in this world,
but it matters a great deal whom we dream of.

When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become
afraid of them as if their reason had left them. When it has left a place
where we have always found it, it is like shipwreck; we drop from
security into something malevolent and bottomless.

The fact that I was a girl never damaged my ambitions to be a pope or an emperor.


One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness;
one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere.


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