Not long ago, I took a trip to see the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Not much has changed in Cross Creek since Mrs. Rawlings worked vigorously typing out literary masterpieces in the thick humidity of Florida. Although the state has done a wonderful job in preserving her home, it’s the overwhelming feeling I got that Marjorie’s presence is still alive and well that made the day for me.
In a way, being a writer and being yourself is one in the same, but not in the beginning. What I mean by this is, when you first start writing you write what you think people would like to read, and all that you have for training in this craft are the authors that you’ve read growing up. Well, that is if you’re self-taught. As time goes on, you become more free in your writing, relaxed if you will; more like yourself but your influences are always with you. Like a shadow they follow you constantly and are always there to fall back on. Especially during the hard times. Like a surrogate family but better, never scolding, judging, never letting you down. I know this sounds twisted, but if you’d been in my shoes at some points of my childhood you would instantly understand clinging to anything, even books and their writers for survival. Hope is fine and all, but books are tangible. Anyways, M. K. Rawlings was definitely this way for me, at least her writing was, along with William S. Burroughs, and Harry Crews, but that’s another story altogether.
After arriving in Cross Creek, the journey began. Walking through the old iron gate, I could only think of the descriptions of her home she wrote so long ago. As I approached the Orange Grove, I saw bent limbs from the weight of ripened fruit. The smell of citrus hung thick in the air, like a blanket smothering the place with its potent smell. Spanish moss blew gently in the morning breeze as mocking birds chased one another through the thicket of scrub that surrounded the homestead. As I walked a little further, I came upon a two hundred year old magnolia in full bloom, its white flowered petals stood out clearly against the tree’s dark green back drop. It’s trunk was so massive three people could not lock arms around it.
Waiting for the tour to begin, I stopped to take some photos. One in particular grabbed my full attention. As I held the digital camera up and snapped a picture of my wife, the screen went black for a moment casting a reflection of something behind me. A shadowed face seemed to be looking over my shoulder. I turned nonchalantly to see no one there. Turning back to my wife, I said, “That’s strange, I saw a refection of someone behind me.” With raised eyebrows, my wife and I met in a gaze of strange expressions, then grins of, okay, let's move on now.
We began following the guide up to M K’s Home and didn’t think much of the incident. Once inside the tour guide asked folks in the group to turn off their cell phones or put them on mute. I thought, mine’s on vibrate and half the time I don’t know it’s ringing, so I’m not turning it off. As I suspected no one tried to called during the twenty minutes I was in the home. But it seemed some one was trying to get my attention. I keep feeling the slightest brush on my side. It was as light as a fingernail, gently, ever so softly dragging on my skin. Soft as a butterfly taking off from a flower fluttering away in the mid summer’s heat. I didn’t know what to think really. I was a little overwhelmed by this point of the tour being in the same home that M K. Rawlings entertained people like, Robert Frost, Margaret Mitchell, Ernest Hemingway and Gregory Peck. The funny feeling I had grew stronger as we finished the walk through. My wife and I started to make our way back to our car when I though to check my phone for messages. Flipping it open I found it was suddenly dead. At this point, I really started to think something strange was going on, like something had attached itself to me, tightly. So tightly it was hard to breath. My heart began to race, but I didn’t want to say anything to my wife, but at the same time I wanted to scream let's get out of here. Then I was frozen for a moment, sweat gathered on the back of my neck and my hands grew clammy. I felt a woman’s arms wrap around me and her soft lips whisper into my ear, “Jason, you have a great imagination. You must be a writer…”