Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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.

9 Comments:

Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I've seen the book, The Yearling, but have never read it. Looks like a great visit for those who have read the author.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Alan G said...

It seems quite obvious given your posted picture and description of the location that Marjorie was profoundly inspired by her surroundings.

Given the nearby hustle-bustle of city life I imagine it was indeed like stepping back in time.

5:07 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

I enjoyed that book and I also loved the movie Cross Creek and I once had the large movie poster from it. The street we live on is Cross Creek, so there is that connection.

7:54 AM  
Blogger possum said...

AH, sounds like a bit of paradise.
I enjoyed your words:
Marjorie had high hopes for her orange grove. This never came to fruition but her writing did.
Excellent... I needed that smile.

Thanks for a lovely trip south! I wonder if it is still open?

7:57 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

It is a great book. I read it when I was a child.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Hi Ginnie, I remember the movie, but have never read the book. Thanks for an informative post. We may be taking a road trip to Florida later this year and maybe Cross Creek can be a desitination stopover.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Putz said...

north carolina????/north carolina???????my daughter lives in asheville, no that is ashboro, huxsband works as a dentist in greensboro<><><><>or bourough<><>you guys have had some snow and your funny little snow days<<><>we have 7 foot drifts of snow over fences and minus 6 degree temperatures and never have snow days <><>i work as a crosssing guard for free{no money} at 7:30 mornings and 2:30 afternoons and my nose hairs freeze up

7:21 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Well you caught my interest. I knew nothing of Rawlings in spite of my recent interest in southern literature (apparently Rawlings did not like such regional disignations). I am not sure she is considered a southern writer althought her location in the South and her writings about the local people, food and environs would qualify her. Wikipedia has a lot of information on her. I will have to read a couple of her books, now.

8:42 AM  
Blogger ellen said...

My mother read the book to me when I was quite little. I loved it, though I couldn't quite grasp the grinding poverty of Jody's family. I just remember absolutely hating his mother! It's a beautiful book and all the more so with a bit more understanding as an adult reader.
Can't wait to see your snow photos.
May you have a wonderful new year.

7:11 AM  

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