“I do not understand how anyone can live without some
small place of enchantment to turn to.”
― Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The cicadas droned their endless summer song and the sweet scent of Confederate Jasmine hung in the air. Dragonflies danced on dew covered leaves, while something rustled in the dry oak leaves beneath the sabal palms.
We’d been here before – back when we were Floridians, always searching for “Old Florida.” Tourists rarely discover this face of Florida – seldom venturing beyond the alluring coastline with its slick veneer of beaches, suntans, and bikinis … unless it’s for a visit to see Mickey.
This “small place of enchantment” in central Florida is called Cross Creek … and it’s the real deal. It’s the former home of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who left her New York life in 1928 and bought an orange grove in rural Florida. Here she endured the hardships of the land, embraced the people of Cross Creek, and wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Yearling.
A trip to Cross Creek is an authentic journey back to a simpler time. We opened the creaking wire gate and followed the winding path along the edge of a small citrus grove. The pine needles underfoot hushed our approach.
James said, “It feels snakey.”
I knew he was right. When a Southerner says that, you know to pay attention. That’s why you rarely see a country woman without her trusty hoe. Garter and rat snakes have their place – it’s the rattlers and coral snakes you have to watch out for.
We emerged into a sunny clearing dominated by a sturdy barn complete with hay loft, farming tools, and of course – snake skins.
But the real treat was just around the corner – Rawlings’ whitewashed cottage. She created this classic Florida Cracker style house by joining three separate buildings with breezeways, then encasing the open spaces with screen to create the perfect Florida wilderness home.
The front porch served as entrance, parlor, bedroom … and the ideal place to write the great American novel.
Out back, a woman worked in the garden, tending vegetables and gathering flowers. Ducklings ran willy-nilly around assorted outbuildings, while chickens pecked at the sandy ground.
Today the nearby creek is clogged with water plants due to the recent drought.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Home, not too far from Gainesville and north of Ocala, is part of the Florida State Park system and open to the public. Volunteer guides give a great tour, offering insight into the author’s life.
If you’re not familiar with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ work, then you may enjoy her books The Yearling and Cross Creek … and the wonderful movies by the same titles.
So I’ll close with my favorite MKR quote:
“A woman has got to love a bad man once or twice in her life,
to be thankful for a good one.”
― Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Count me thankful!
P.S. For you foodies out there, Rawlings also created the Cross Creek Cookery – a marvelous collection of her favorite Florida recipes. We truly enjoy Mrs. Chancey’s Spanish Bean Soup and her observations on the nature of soup:
“I associate soup with either poverty or formal elegance. The poor make a meal of it. The elegant dabble in it, beginning a long dinner of main courses with a cup or plate of it, aggravatingly small.” –MKR
Originally published June 10, 2013
If you enjoyed this post, then you may enjoy these!
Living Off the Grid in the Okefenokee Swamp
Okefenokee Swamp: A Hike in the Land of Trembling Earth