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Sunday, September 28, 2008


It looks yellow, everything--ditches, trees, the light . . . no, the light isn't yellow. The light is clearer than summer light. And maybe the trees, their leaves, at least, aren't yellow but amber and tangerine. This is a golden river tonight; I don't think it's been called this before. River of Echoes, River of Deer, yes, both of those; Florida's Suwannee bears those names, sure, but anybody sitting here on the deck right now @ 6:30 p.m. could probably be persuaded by the sight in front of me to adopt this new name.

The river is low again, all white beach and exposed cypress knees that only weeks ago were under 12-15 feet of water. At high water in the rains of Hurricane Fay, most of what I can see here was covered.

Tonight's light falls through greens and golds, the delicate leaves of the river birch, lace of cypresses, and the starred shapes of palmetto fronds. Even the gray of the Spanish mosses is white in this light, the sun at 45 degrees in the west.

I don't usually follow popular culture but I will never forget where I was sitting earlier today when the news of Paul Newman's death appeared on my computer screen.

Below the deck here some small creature dimples the water with movement and the sound of "glug, glug." Far away in what I almost fail to notice, the great ruff of interstate traffif moves on, that little fish jumps again, a squirrel cries faintly, and there's a faraway bark from a dog. Almost October, the fall of the year 2008.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENT - Bringing the Book Home

This photo, courtesy of Michael Curtis@Greene Publishing, Madison, Florida.

At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, 13 September, I will have the immense pleasure of bringing SOUTHERN COMFORTS: Rooted in a Florida Place home to the community from which it came.

Saturday is important, long-awaited, because this book belongs to the Alachua community. It also belongs to High Springs and to the larger North Florida Community. I am so looking forward to being in Alachua. Come and meet the people of the book--Cellon, Herndon, Horner, McFadden, Hill, Traxler, DeCoursey, Everett, Spencer, Lee, Washington, Dampier, Richardson, Frazier, Wallace, Lundy, Moorer, Escue, Cherry, Welch, Lawford, Bryant, Watson, and Potano Woman. Please JOIN US for music furnished by the Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Mass Choir headed by Gussie Lee; Introductions by native son, Will Irby; a showing of the video, "This Place, Alachua"; Refreshments furnished by the Friends of the Library, and a reading/signing of SOUTHERN COMFORTS. See you there(at Alachua's newly-remodeled Branch Library)!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hurricane Fay

Summer is leaving me. At midnight the sky is black, stars out, one lusty frog ratcheting the hour away, and it smells like summer, the end of summer: a squished stinkbug, curtain of crickets in the background. When the magnolia’s pods are turning red and the holly berries gain color, roadsides are one yellow fringe, and a distant field of tobacco is a golden ribbon rippling against the horizon, there’s not much summer left. For some reason, tonight's cooler temp, the sound of the wind lifting the branches of the birches, then letting them drop and the rhythmic trickle between the trees, remind me of this poem by William Butler Yeats:

The Ragged Wood

O hurry where by water among the trees
The delicate-stepping stag and his lady sigh,
When they have but looked upon their images -
Would none had ever loved but you and I!

Or have you heard that sliding silver-shoed
Pale silver-proud queen-woman of the sky,
When the sun looked out of his golden hood? -
O that none ever loved but you and I!

O hurry to the ragged wood, for there
I will drive all those lovers out and cry -
O my share of the world, O yellow hair!
No one has ever loved but you and I.

After the liatris (Blazing Star, see three photos above) had opened in a downpour and I’d resigned myself to its swift disappearance beneath the rising Suwannee; after laying in candles, sardines, soy milk, and enough canned goods to see me through a period of No Shopping; after my friend and I painstakingly carried the lawn furniture and croquet set halfway up the elcctric tower so it wouldn’t float away; and after we moved 67 pots of kalanchoes, coleus, aloes, ferns, and amarylis bulbs to the upstairs porch, SRWMD posted a bulletin saying the flood is off: the anticlimax to the anticlimax that was the storm, Fay.

Meanwhile, the river rushes past, carrying jetsam and flotsam, mostly pieces of trees and an occasional paper cup. For months I could not see the Suwannee from inside this stilt-footed house. Then, viola! Two Friday mornings back I woke up, walked into the kitchen, and saw out the window a river twice its usual width. Fay played with us, taunted the residents in every county of this state but, hey! that,writes my friend Ron Cooper, is how it is with the riparian way of life.

Small price to pay for the privilege of drinking morning coffees on the deck at the edge of the water, for the changing golds and greens of sunset as summer’s red globe moves westward, lighting up the channel of the Suwannee in front of my house, turning cypress skirts pink, gilding the hanging mosses in the trees on the opposite bank.

I’ve retrieved my car from my neighbor’s property, 20 feet higher up. No need for the canoe. This time. My helpful friend who bore the heaviest plants upstairs offers, “Could we leave them until after the hurricanes?”