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EXCERPT On Winslow Homer's Weaningthe Calf by James Applewhite Winslow Homer American, 1836—1910 Weaning the Calf, 1875 Oil on canvas, 23Vs ? 38 in. North Carolina Museum of Art Purchased with funds from the State ofNorth Carolina 52.9.16 32 What shadows my happiness? The boy and calf so linked by a rope seem to forget all else. Grass recedes to the horizon and chickens roam free. Hay stacked richly as memory bulges mountainously on the sky. My wish is matched by this scene, where green reflected in aqua and clouds lets the perspective between take sight into a vapor refusing to be mist, a balmy air which will not weep but reveal: two town boys in hats and suspenders, bystanders, who also look past the other boy concealed in a ragged shade. His brother the calfresists being hauled from its source. Here the grass with its highlights, sunflakes like the whites of chickens and cow and ofsplashes on a boy and die calf's legs, seems mother ofeverything— this vista between the framing trees, where farms and towns hover as invisibly as sorrow is in this air, as if seasons were only apparent. Yet the cow being led away switches her tail, tossing her head back lyrically so that the arc ofher horns pinpoints the clouds. What forgetfulness ofvines twists this open fence not enclosing one earth-breast, where red on a rooster's combs and on the farther chickens leads my eye into a landscape widiout limit? I trust in it, give myselfto the summer as ifbreathing it, this American horizon. Yet the farmhand leaning hard to pull the cow away remains as faceless as seasons. His figure cannot go home, for Homer has not painted those houses hidden by borders. The gesture of this white mother's neck sharpens her horns so that they pierce me with loss. The dark boy cannot follow, as spring does winter, beyond concern, assumed, too close to see. Part of the farm. Now I grasp his braced legs, work-strengthened shoulders, the curve ofhis back and neck, though his face is averted. The rest is pastoral, a tale of expanse and ease not purchased by any expense ofbreath. I turn away, the points ofhurt in my chest an ache after beauty: almost grasped, like ice, composed to last. I feel it melt into a world where sun conceals its shade, and seasons pass. On Winslow Homer's Weaning the Calf 3 3 ...


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