Death Comes for the Archbishop is a beautiful book. The language is delicious. You are allowed, at this point, to say scornfully, “Well, yeah. It was written by Willa Cather!”

But the landscape is what has been most striking to me, and in particular the contrast with that of My Antonia. I read that last year, and felt that the prairie was almost a character in the book, and that it was malevolent. In Death Comes for the Archbishop the fact that people are often nearly dying in the desert does not prevent me from experiencing the beauty of the desert. The smell of it, in particular, is always with me as I read.

Granted that I don’t care much for prairies and love the desert, it still seems to me that Cather is in control of the impression made by her landscapes.

Our landscapes are looking pretty good here. We have entered the stage of garden swapping. I took some cukes, yellow zucchini, and cayenne peppers to The Empress and That Man. The Empress brought watermelon to me and The Poster Queen. JJ brought me crookneck squash, zucchini, and a habanera pepper that someone had brought to her.

Tomatoes rarely feature in these exchanges. It’s almost impossible to have too many tomatoes, isn’t it? Our heirloom tomato plants, my husband says, are only going to bear one set of fruit and then die. They are that kind of tomato. I hope he’s wrong, but he rarely is wrong about plants. If I had known this, I would have planted some other varieties as well.

Today, with the deadline having passed at midnight, I will have to email in my encyclopedia entry with a note saying I couldn’t find out anything reliable about race relations in that county. Sigh. Then is church, and then I hope to do some sewing. I have cut out the remaining three pieces of my SWAP Part II and might conceivably get them all sewn up this weekend, my weekend now being Sunday and Monday.

However, grocery shopping and housework are also on the docket, so … probably not. I must decide whether to strive to complete one piece entirely, or to do all the main seams and leave the finishing for evenings. I am more likely to do handwork in the evenings than to get to the machine.

The other book I am reading is Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, in which I have now reached the beginning of life. I am irritating my family by reading out all the best parts. One of my favorite sentences, though, is in the section where Bryson is detailing the various implausible theories about how life actually got going. He has pointed out that getting from the presence of various amino acids to actual life is equivalent to having all the ingredients sitting in your kitchen get themselves together to make cakes… that can actually replicate themselves into other cakes.He then runs through the sequences posited by various people, and sums it up thus: “If so: wow.”

……..

It is now 8:37. I did my level best to finish up the encyclopedia entry and sent it off with a note explaining that I had done my best. Since that time — at least an hour — I have been sitting here in my silk pajamas reading blogs and drinking tea and listening to birds and failing to accomplish anything at all. I am shocked with myself. It is gray and soft and lovely outside, with raindrops still glistening on the flowers, and it seems like a perfect day to loll around in a gentle fog, but that was not at all my plan for the day. I feel like Dexter. Could I skip church and leave the alto section small and pitiful for the schmaltzy arrangement of “America the Beautiful”? Could I skip the grocery and feed my menfolks squash for lunch? Could I ignore the messy house?

Of course not. I will now endeavor to Snap Out of It.

Maybe one more cup of tea…..