The Cypress trees of Reelfoot Lake turn a beautiful red orange in the fall. Reelfoot Lake was created by the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812, a little known, little talked about earthquake but still the largest to hit the United States mainland. Reelfoot is also known as the lake made “the day the River ran backwards,” as the Mississippi River, disrupted by the shifting ground of the earthquake, flowed backwards into a low lying swampy area before reversing and flowing back out again. Today, Reelfoot is home to vast numbers of migratory birds and is a nesting area for bald eagles.
“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? When I first asked these questions nearly a year ago, I wasn’t sure of the answers. Since that time, I have to expand to ask these questions of all creative people. I am more convinced than ever, that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was on to something.
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.
For me, that place has always been Reelfoot Lake. Though I now live almost 200 miles from Reelfoot, I get there as often as I can. Sometimes I coerce friends to ride along with the promise of magical scenery and the best fried catfish known to man. Occasionally, I get up early and throw Twinkie and my camera in the car and drive over for a brief afternoon, returning late that night. But I don’t paint there. I breathe in the energy, absorbing the air. I take in the visual feast and snap some shots. Later, back home, when I sit down to paint, I go back to Reelfoot in my mind. I remember the sights, the sounds, even the smells. But what happens with the paint is more the memories from childhood. The infrequent trips to Reelfoot never fail to stimulate the childlike sense of awe that makes Reelfoot a place of enchantment for me and probably always will.
Reelfoot is not the only place of enchantment for me. Gardens can also stir up feelings of enchantment, especially butterfly gardens. When focusing on the place of enchantment, the feeling and spirit of the place returns fully. Rawlings knew what she was talking about. We all need those places. The question is, how many of us take enough time to soak up enchantment? I know I don’t. Currently, I’m overdue for a major soaking.
For more on Reelfoot go to:http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/reelfoot-lake
Most of my art focuses on Reelfoot Lake in Northwest Tennessee, a unique lake formed by the New Madrid (Missouri) Earthquakes of 1811-1812. The New Madrid quakes are still the largest earthquakes to ever hit the United States mainland. For more on Reelfoot, go here and here. For more on the New Madrid earthquakes go here.