A VISIT TO “CROSS CREEK” … FLORIDA, 1995
In 1995 I had the pleasure of visiting the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s home, “Cross Creek”, in Florida. Entering there was a shock and a delight. The shock came from finding myself in this idyllic setting just minutes from the frenetic bustle of Gainesville, and the delight was in knowing that I could soak up the experience much as she 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”.
The approach to “Cross Creek” is down a winding country road that took us past an orange grove and outbuildings. It then led to a picturesque farmhouse, made up of three separate buildings inter-connected with porches. We saw a daybed on the verandah where she would often sleep when she was working on a novel. It was just paces away from her open typewriter and I could readily envision her sitting there.
Her household is a jumble of contradictions, much like Marjorie herself, from the vintage cooking gear to the elaborate, antique Hitchcock dining room set. She loved to cook and the kitchen shelves are still lined with jams and jellies she made from her own fruit trees. The story goes that she enjoyed a nip or two also and it was interesting to note the empty wine bottles still randomly thrown into the closet !
The spirit of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is very much alive in this place of enchantment and, as we left the house, I had the strange feeling that life has come to a standstill. I could almost catch the sweet, pungent smell of oranges and herbs and it wasn’t difficult to understand how this place could nourish the soul of a gifted writer.