A VISIT TO “CROSS CREEK” … FLORIDA, 1995
One of my sister Peggy’s prized possessions is her copy of this lovely book, “The Yearling” signed by the author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It is proudly displayed on a hall table in their home in Gainesville, Florida.
When Peggy and her husband moved from Massachusetts to their new home they were pleased to find that they were just minutes away from the famous “Cross Creek” residence of Ms. Rawlings. They couldn’t wait to share this experience with me on my visit to them in 1995.
Entering “Cross Creek” is a shock and a delight. The shock comes from finding yourself in this idyllic setting just minutes from the progressive bustle of Gainesville, and the delight is in knowing that you are welcome to soak up the experience much as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings did when she lived and wrote there.
She bought the 70 acres of “Cross Creek” in 1928 with her husband, Charles. She loved the remoteness, the wildness and the simplicity of life that she found there. She had been a city girl but the minute she saw the property she felt it was “home”.
Her marriage was not to last but she had found her “place of enchantment” and she lived there until her death in 1953.
This was actually a working farm and Marjorie had high hopes for her orange grove. This never came to fruition but her writing did. She started writing short stories in 1930 and in 1938 she struck gold with her book “The Yearling” which won a Pulitzer for Best Novel that year. In 1942 she, once again, won acclaim with the publication of her book, “Cross Creek”.
We approach Marjorie’s home by a winding country road that takes us past an orange grove and outbuildings. It then leads us to a picturesque farmhouse, made up of three separate buildings inter-connected with porches. We see a daybed on the verandah where she would often sleep when she was working on a novel. It is just paces away from her open typewriter.
We see her kitchen where she loved to cook, it’s shelves still lined with jams and jellies made from her own fruit trees. Her household is a jumble of contradictions, much like Marjorie herself, from the vintage cooking gear to the elaborate, antique Hitchcock dining room set. As we leave the house we have the feeling that life has come to a standstill. We catch the sweet, pungent smell of oranges and herbs and we can understand how this place could nourish the soul of a gifted writer.
The spirit of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is very much alive in this place of enchantment. We can almost see her wave goodbye to us as we reluctantly return to the 21st century.