“What, I thought, if, after all, these crouching willows proved to be alive; if suddenly they should rise up, like swarm of living creatures, marshaled by the gods whose territory we had invaded, sweep towards us off the vast swamps, booming overhead in the night – and then settle down! As I looked it was so easy to imagine they actually moved, crept nearer, retreated a little, huddled together in masses, hostile, waiting for the great wind that should finally set them a-running. I could have sworn their aspect changed a little, and their ranks deepened and pressed more closely together.”*
Blackwood, has been hands down, blowing my mind thus far. His skill for personifying the surrounding environment is insane. I’ve had tiny droplets in the corners of my eyes more than once, while reading throughout just the first chapter.
The feeling of isolation works its way piece by piece, and each time I return to the text I find out it has nestled deeper, more comfortable in the back of my mind. It has led dumbfound me line by line, until it now became too late for realizations and finding pivoting points. I fell for that, yes, got myself trapped in a single phrase from which I couldn’t go back. And I liked it, and I thanked it had happened. I couldn’t return to my initial perception and general view of the river, the land, the camp. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. Daytime is boring.
The wonderful anonymous narrator, a man consumed and excited by a supernatural sense of everything (unlike his companion the Swede), goes through that very same transition of switching between the joyous travel, sightseeing theme to the restless night one with imagined things startling you. At first his eyes register the serenity of the Danube River, the peaceful seclusion it provides, almost gifts to the dweller there, and the picturesque journey is an adventure anyone would go on. Heck, the Danube River is some six hours drive away from where I live – I can theoretically retrace their canoe expedition; I could find the Willows! But would I want to? Really? I think, maybe, I would. Just for a night.
Blackwood clicks his fingers and the story experiences a masterful, sick, brilliant turn for the worst, but it is oh so beautiful! I cannot express the power and solidity of the existence, of that forsaken night world. I dare call it not surreal. I’m content to allow it a truistic aspect. Something so vivid and terrifying cannot be a simple figment of one’s imagination. Right? It’s a deliciously dark truth to believe in, and I will until the very end! Let the Willows live!
It is a disturbingly playful read and very loud one, which amazes me – the wind is deafening. You can hear it in between the words, escaped breaths of those voiced by nature spirits and wrathful gods animating the world they inhabit.
It’s impossible to stay unaffected by Blackwood’s voice. I am mesmerized – I shudder every night and then return to The Willows to stare into the dark and know more, experience more. It is this good.
I’d like to pay respects and admiration in a bigger update sometime soon. The story and the author both deserve it, and there’s plenty symbolism to pick out and discuss.
How is your #NaNoReMo choice treating you? Also, have a little art!
*quote from “The Willows” belongs to Algernon Blackwood