Authors: Josephine W. Johnson
Afterword by Nancy Hoffman
Published in 1991 by the Feminist Press at the City University of New York
The Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5406
New York, NY 10016
Copyright Â© 1934, 1962 by Josephine Johnson
Afterword copyright Â© 1991 by Nancy Hoffman
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or used, stored in any information retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior written permission of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York except in case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Johnson, Josephine Winslow, 1910â1990
Now in November / by Josephine Winslow Johnson ; afterword by Nancy Hoffman
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Previously published: New York, Simon & Schuster, 1934.
This publication is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Josephine Johnson at the time she wrote
Now in November.
From the private collection of the family of Josephine Johnson
NOW in November I can see our years as a whole. This autumn is like both an end and a beginning to our lives, and those days which seemed confused with the blur of all things too near and too familiar are clear and strange now. It has been a long year, longer and more full of meaning than all those ten years that went before it. There were nights when I felt that we were moving toward some awful and hopeless hour, but when that hour came it was broken up and confused because we were too near, and I did not even quite realize that it had come.
I can look back now and see the days as one looking down on things past, and they have more shape and meaning than before. But nothing is really finished or left behind forever.
The years were all alike and blurred into one another, and the mind is a sort of sieve or quicksand, but I remember the day we came and the months afterward well enough. Too well.
The roots of our life, struck in back there that March, have a queer resemblance to their branches.
The hills were bare then and swept of winter leaves, but the orchards had a living look. They were stained with the red ink of their sap and the bark
tight around them as though too small to hold the new life of coming leaves. It was an old place and the land had been owned by Haldmarnes since the Civil War, but when we came no one had been living there for years. Only tenant farmers had stayed awhile and left. The land was stony, but with promise, and sheep grew fat in the pastures where rock ledges were worn back,
white like stone teeth bared to frost. There were these great orchards planted up and down the hills, and when Mother saw them that first day she thought of having to gather the crop and haul the apples up this steepness, but she only said a good harvest ought to come, and the trees looked strong though old. “No market even if they bear,” I remember Father said; and then,â“it's mortgaged land.”
Nobody answered, and the wagon went on groaning and squeaking in the ruts. Merle and I watched the jays, blue-flickering through the branches, and heard their screams. The elms were thick with buds and brown-webbed across the sky. It was beautiful and barren in the pastures, and the walnuts made a kind of lavender-colored shadow, very clean. Things were strange and unrelated and made no pattern that a person could trace easily. Here was the land and
the spring air full of snow melting, and yet the beginning of fear already,âthis mortgage, and Father consumed in himself with sour irritation and the future dread. But Mother sat there very quiet. He had not told her the place was mortgaged, and the land at least, she had thought, was unencumbered, and sanctuary though everything else was gone. But even in the moment when she saw that this, too, was uncertain and shifting ground, something she always hadâsomething I didn't know then and may never knowâlet her take it quietly. A sort of inner well of peace. Faith I guess it was. She stood a great deal and put up with much, but all without doubt or bitterness; and that she was there, believing and not shaken, or not seeming so at least, was all that we needed then to know. We could forget for the time this sense of impermanence and doubt which had come up from his words. Merle was ten then and I was fourteen, and it seemed to us that some great adventure had begun. But Father looked only at the old, year-rotted barns.
He wasn't a man made for a farmer, Arnold Haldmarne, although brought up on the land when a boy, and now returning to acres not different much from the ones he used to plough. He hadn't the resignation
that a farmer has to have,âthat resignation which knows how little use to hope or hate, or pray for even a bean before its appointed time. He'd left the land when he was still sixteen and gone to Boone, making himself a place in the lumber factories there. He'd saved and come up hard and slow like an oak or ash that grows with effort but is worth much more than any poplar shooting two feet high in a season. But now he was chopped back down to root again. It's a queer experience for a man to go through, to work years for security and peace, and then in a few months' time have it all dissolve into nothing; to feel the strange blankness and dark of being neither wanted nor necessary any more. Things had come slow to him and gone fast, and it made him suspicious even of the land.
We hauled our beds here in the wagon with us. The car was sold and most of the furniture gone too. We left our other life behind us as if it had not been. Only the part that was of and in us, the things we'd read and the things remembered, came with us, and the books we'd gathered through three generations but could not sell because earth was knee-deep and wading in books already. We left a world
confused, and shouting at itself, and came here to one that was no less hard and no less ready to thwart a man or cast him out, but gave him something, at least, in return. Which was more than the other one would do.