‘Blowing in the wind’

Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Arcturus 2014, p. 331

Hate him or love him (one of my creative writing teachers once scathingly wrote him off as a try-hard attempting to be what Raymond Carver is), there is something immediate and vital about Hemingway’s writing. The rhythm of the sentences, with recurring words like “blowing,” “hills,” even “and,” create a closed circuit of a particular experience of life that you can almost feel as the scene is described by its sensations.

The exception is the second “living was.” It is a very sparse sentence with no action (besides “being”) or “and.” What is a hawk in the sky? Living. Nothing else. No interpretation or qualification—it just is.

I’m tempted to try and make a profound observation about this, but I feel that the passage is, like life, its own justification; Make of both what you will.

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