In the early days of spring, I decided to partake in one of my favorite activities: thrifting for books. Typically, I come across gold in unexpected places, and this particular afternoon was no different. Slightly hidden within the arbitrary shelves of Goodwill, I discovered a pristine copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It’s the 75th anniversary edition, and the cover itself is an ode to springtime, with its delicate illustrations of pink and white flowers among a backdrop the color of wine. Truthfully, I had never read a single word by Hurston, and I was ready to be introduced to the celebrated author that Alice Walker rediscovered. I bought the book for less than $1, smiling with gratitude all the way home.
As I began reading on that spring day, Hurston’s graceful prose combined with the soft wind and the melodies of birds created an experience that was deeply peaceful and atmospheric. Although the southern dialogue, which is written exactly how it may sound, was rather difficult to read initially, eventually I was able to flow with the characters and their way of speaking. Yet what I found most rewarding about the novel was not the dialogue, but the poetic language that existed outside of conversation. It is in these precious moments of descriptive writing where we are able to witness Hurston’s talent come to life. I adore the way she writes about trees and flowers, and the metaphors between love and the blooming season.
This particular paragraph makes me want to wait for my lover underneath a pear tree––happily surviving off of pears and dew, basking in the sunshine until he arrives. “He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom –– a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a glance from God.”
It has been at least a month since I have embarked on my journey with Hurston, and certain lovely sentences still linger: “From now until death she was going to have flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything.” Perhaps because I see myself in the main character Janie. I, too, will romanticize life and bring the spring with me everywhere I go. Like Janie, I see the connection between nature and love, and how we can learn a lot about ourselves just by laying down in a field underneath a tree.
“Oh to be a pear tree – any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world!”
For anyone missing out on the magic of springtime, Hurston’s words will surely give birth to a desire that prompts them to stop and smell the roses, as they say. Of course, if you haven’t read Their Eyes Were Watching God, it’s necessary to note that this book is certainly not a light read. There is tragedy, loss, and darkness within the pages. But there’s also resilience, growth, and love that blooms. Despite it all, the beauty of Janie’s soul and the true love that she finds which allows “her soul to crawl out from its hiding place” is what makes Their Eyes Were Watching God an unforgettable classic.