It was so hard to leave this morning. So hard.
The owner of the place came over before we left to bring us some banana bread he'd baked from Roseland bananas and Lloyd eggs. And we started talking. I could talk to that man for hours. Days. About Roseland, about that property. About mangos and Surinam cherries and sulphur water and a million other things that we haven't even begun to discuss. I wish he was my brother. I wish he was my next-door neighbor. He used to own a restaurant in Atlanta and he makes marmalade from the Seville oranges he gets from a tree that was on the property when they bought the place. He goes to the Mango Festival in Miami every year.
Are you freaking kidding me?
I love walking around the property with him telling me what he's planted. I notice. I see. I could learn so much from him.
But anyway, dammit, we had to leave. I cried a little as we left. "Good-bye, good-bye," I said, as we took a right off the sandy river road and left that wide, flat current behind me again.
Reading South Moon Under out loud on the way home eased my pain.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings loved that part of Florida as much as anyone on this earth and she was such a fine, fine writer. The lives of her characters are as real to me as the lives of the characters of McMurtry and that's saying a lot. And her description of the scrub, the hammocks, the rivers, the forests, the swamps, the plants, the birds, the water, the sky- her writing is what I would aspire to if I had an ounce of her talent, which I do not. The people she writes about are people she knew and imagined lives for. The way they made their grease and grits. The crops they planted, the game they hunted, the travails they suffered whether of heat or freezing or drought or nor'easters or disease and death are a testament to the human spirit and especially to the pioneers who, with nothing more than the sweat of their brow and a fierce determination, managed to live in the deep wilds of Florida before Deet and air conditioning and malls and Publix and electricity and indoor plumbing and paved roads. Who managed to eke it out, stay alive.
And I knew some of those people, or at least, their descendants.
And I honor them.
So. We made it home. And all of the chickens and the cats are alive. And I've unpacked mostly and have laundry going and have given the talky Maurice several treats and the chickens too and gathered eggs and have my rootlings which were given to me and which I dug from the Roseland jungles in water. I've washed the four plates and eight martini glasses we bought at thrift stores.
It was a beautiful trip and the thing I believe I will remember most is sitting in that beautiful little enclosed jungle courtyard with the bamboo rubbing and swishing and knocking above me, the lizards skittering about with the cry of ospreys as they flew overhead.
I got to see the Sandhill Cranes again this morning. I said goodbye to the staghorn fern, the hibiscus, the palms, the lion pool, the stucco walls of the Goodrich mansion entranceway. I am home. I have water going on the garden. I need to get in there and work if I want greens this winter. The boys, my beautiful boys, are coming tomorrow. My husband will sleep with me tonight in our own bed. I hope Maurice will sleep snuggled up to my hip.
I am thinking of my grandparents who moved to Roseland when Granddaddy retired, not to languish and be lazy in a condo overlooking a canal or the beach, but to start a new life in a jungle, to keep a compost pile and a garden, to battle mosquitoes and, for Granddaddy, at least, to wield a machete, to wear snake boots and a pith helmet, to welcome his daughter and her children when she needed help and to build us a house and to teach me and my brother to fish off a dock with a cane pole, a bobber and a shrimp.
James Marshall Alexander and Ruth Alexander.
I went home. I came home.