Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote The Yearling and other books at her home in an orange grove in Cross Creek, Florida. In her book and movie, Cross Creek, she talked about how quickly the undergrowth of the hummock could rise up and overtake the orange groves. This is the hummock behind her home now and it has overtaken the orange grove and reclaimed it. Her home is maintained by the state of Florida as a state park but the swamp hummock owns the grove. So much of the book is alive and well in the carefully maintained home and is a treat to visit. Just don’t step off the grounds into the hummock!
“Cross Creek belongs to the wind and rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.” Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
There’s a place in Nashville far enough off the tourist path to remain an oasis for nature lovers and others seeking relief from the hectic pace of the daily rat race. To go there is to breathe in the scent of the flora and fauna of the woods without leaving the city. A bit of the rejuvenation coming only from Mother Nature is just a short distance from the rush hour traffic of the nearby interstate. Radnor Lake is a slice of enchantment to feed the create soul while remaining in the city.
Taking Granny White Pike toward the lake, between the old stacked -stone walls built by soldiers during the Battle of Nashville is a beautiful drive beneath towering oaks. The turn onto Otter Creek Road leads to the small parking area designated for visitors to the lake. Leaving the car and starting out up the short hill to the road beside the lake is to step into another world. The trees are a canopy overhead shading the walk. Leaves scattered over the road crunch under foot. Birds chirping replace the sounds of traffic. The woods become an enveloping blanket leaving the busyness of life behind.
Other people are present but scattered enough to keep the feeling of being in the woods from dissolving. And the people of Radnor Lake are a very respectful bunch, all seeming to have entered into the spiritual presence of a pristine natural world. The occasional bit of laughter rings out or the delighted scream of a child at the site of a scurrying chipmunk can be heard but otherwise voices do not pierce the stillness of the woods.
While ascending the hill to the lake road the other day, I spotted a man standing very quietly looking up into the woods. He was not moving a muscle. As I approached, I realized he was watching something in the woods. I slowed my pace and searched for what he was seeing. A family approaching from the other direction, stopped as well, and peered into the trees. We soon saw what the man was watching. A white tailed deer and her two almost grown babies were coming down out of the woods to cross the road to the creek below the lake. We all stood momentarily transfixed by the sight, as the deer family walked peaceably by the humans not ten feet away without a care and disappeared into the woods again on the other side. The group of humans then dispersed and walked on. The children completely quiet and still as the deer family passed, resumed their happy skipping and chatter. It was a momentary shared spiritual experience.
Radnor Lake is a place I go for soul nourishment. The trees, flowers, birds and other wildlife bring on a magical contentment. Looking out over the lake is a peaceful sight. Passing photographers and binocular-welding bird watchers along the walk, I know others are finding food for the soul, as well. Like Cross Creek, Radnor Lake belongs, “beyond all, to time.” We all need the Radnor Lake/Cross Creek places to soothe and feed our creative selves.
“I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.” Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of Cross Creek and The Yearling
Do we, as artists, require a place of enchantment? Can we create without a place of enchantment? Do we have to physically be at that place or can we go there in heart and mind?
Rawlings was a moderately successful New York writer until she moved to a small Central Florida orange grove near a place called Cross Creek. Eventually Rawlings wrote about the people of Cross Creek, FL. Her writings about life in the Florida orange grove rocketed Rawlings to her place as a treasured American icon after the movie The Yearling, starring Gregory Peck, hit the big screen. She drew her creative nourishment from the beauty of her place of enchantment.