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Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This comes from my 1988 interview with African-American Letha Wright DeCoursey who here quotes her grandfather, the emancipated slave, Brisker Blue:

"Bottom rail's gone rise."


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Richest Woman in the World

Robert Baxter’s Sunday Shot

Copied from journal for November 2, 2008
[Tomorrow is the 15th birthday of my granddaughter, Ashley Danielle Hunt.]

I have been wordless for nearly two weeks. Now, finally, the words come and exultation surges through me, delight because my writing "fast"—my fast from writing—is done. It ended abruptly; I have laid down my book-–Doris Betts’s good book—and uncapped my pen for this sudden rush of syllables onto the page, for my seeing this room and myself as if from a distance. Now my two-week depression will fade.

There is so much to be glad for—-the reds and greens in this room, these books, and the blood galloping in my veins. Writing loveliness down is my way of praising creation and I am best fitted for exactly that (and perhaps not much more). When I don’t sing, my word-bag's contents dry up; thanks to Betts, here I am at my old writing table (that’s been to Mississippi and back) over which I have spread a red cloth of deep roses and wines and on this cloth sits a pile of notes for that unfinished paper, “The Idea of Sacred Space at White Springs,” a black-spotted conical shell I can’t identify, two horribly-scribbled pocket calendars, and a small spiral notebook like the ones I habitually carried as a child.

There’s also a stack of other people’s books: Wendell Berry’s essays, the oral history of White Springs Barbara Beauchamp put together, Mahon’s book on the Seminole Wars; The African-American Heritage of Florida; the most recent Chattahoochee Reivew, Robert Louis Stevenson, and that’s not all; my elbow rests on Janson’s thick History of Art I study over coffee each morning and, looming over me, a treelike swatch of green elephant ears destined to die under frost if I hadn’t cut and brought them in. They dominate the room which, already, is decked with three vases of palmetto fans, its windows crowded with herbs and young avocado trees.

Robert Baxter’s Suwannee River photograph shows exactly what we see immediately before the odd, trilling bird soars upriver; what I was staring into when a deer appeared, swimming downstream; the look of the river immediately before the mourning dove calls. The river is low now and mirrors the roots of cypress trees on the opposite bank. Although they haven’t yet flown into Robert’s frame, it’s easy to imagine birds all around—the cardinal, titmouse, and jay that watch me sip coffee on the morning deck, a pure surround of birds. Faraway (very far, thank goodness), a small roar of traffic from Interstate 75.

In the November-December issue of Orion, I just read a piece (p. 64, "Silence like Scouring Sand," Kathleen Dean Moore) about Gordon Hempton who has marked with a small red stone one square inch where “he can listen for 15 minutes” and hear nothing humanmade, except the movements of his pencil on paper. Hempton is making it his business to preserve a spot of pure silence; well, not silence, just a quiet that allows him to hear a bird on the wing, a leaf rip loose from the branch of a tree. The article says there are very few places—in this country and perhaps on the planet—where it’s possible to sit for fifteen minutes without hearing another person or something manmade. That “silence” is what most of us at Suwannee Bend were looking for when we first came.

The farmer’s market is not far away, nor the stage where during the Florida Folk Festival May Frances Marshall belts out powerful gospel songs. Here, I can catch the drill of the woodpecker as well as those of two mosquitoes, watch skimmers ski over the surface of the water. I can study the orange berries of the palmetto, the no-red-on-his-tail hawk, watch for alligator, deer, egret, duck, the doglike, slither of an otter.

I could hide behind these towering elephant ears (see picture above); in fact, the entire southwest corner of the room is hidden from my view. It’s grown cold outside, another winter coming. The holidays rise before me like fresh, white index cards; thank god I can write, can sit here surrounded by riches. The richest woman in the world.