The Landscape of My Childhood


The moon setting over my brother's driveway
I stopped at my brother's place on the way to see my Mom. He lives in the part of Florida where I was born; mostly rural, and driving through the little town, apparently untouched by time. Landscapes dotted with cows and single majestic oaks under a half-dome of cerulean blue so wide you can see the curvature of the earth. I crack the back windows and tip the sun roof up so the flow of warmish air swirls all around me. I feel free and relaxed and I savor that because it will not last.

An oak hammock dripping with spanish moss
In the morning I walked through the oaky woods. I found a crow feather and tucked it into a button hole on my jacket pocket. Crow medicine is very powerful and to find a feather is good fortune. I will take it as a totem with me as a travel on. Alone in the oak hammock I marvel at the abundant mosses hanging like earthly chandeliers. There is a carpet of oak leaves, reindeer moss and fallen weathered wood with seminole and rebel blood beneath it. 

Planted pines of long ago fail to mature as expected
The woods have a perfume of slash-pine turpentine and burning brush. There are Northern Flickers as big as ducks. They fly in a wavy up-and-down pattern and move up a tree with a mechanical ratcheting bob. High above, Turkey Vultures (called "buzzards" here) ride the thermals in an open descending spiral. There are little greenish birds in the pines...I wonder if they are Vireos. A deer passes through the woods beyond the pines and disappears, her tail flashing white with caution.

I love this field and could stay in it all day and never be bored
 Before I bought Chickory, I looked nearby for property. This is what I wanted, right here what you are looking at in this photograph. Looks like not much but it breaks my heart with beauty. My father wisely counseled me against it. He thought it was too far from my husband, and knew the pull to the land would make the trips home fewer and longer between. I do love the mountains and streams of north Georgia, but this big view is not possible where I live and I miss it .

a scrubby palmetto stands alone in the straw
One more pass through the woods before I get in the car
Here you will find the best fresh-squeezed on the 301
I stopped at the old Citra Orange Shop and got some fresh OJ for breakfast and just looked around a bit. The old florida cracker houses behind it reminded me of being a child playing barefoot on a painted wooden porch. The roads are sand-based mixes with oak leaves. I love interior Florida. Too many people only see the beaches or DisneyWorld and don't know about it. It is a landscape they speed through, indifferent to its charms and abundant wildlife. This is a birders paradise, thought I, as the familiar whir of duck wings filled the space above me.

A tent revival has pulled into town offering big top salvation

In this lonesome and timeless moment I reflected on Flannery O'Connors observation of the "Christ haunted south". She would have loved the sight of this trailer and would have been the perfect companion to take to the witnessing of healing, miracles and deliverance. I put the big top in the rear view, inserted myself into the north florida autobahn and sucked in as much landscape and air as I could. There is no time, no sun or wind or light, in an institution. 


  1. I have enough Southern Blood that I feel the pull of that land right through the photos.
    It is an oddity in the South; some things change and some are little different than MANY years ago. There is a difference in the passage of time....the only way I know to describe it.
    Time hangs languid in the humid warmth, waiting for a reason to move on.....
    Loved this post. Wonderful.


  2. Loved the trip and the stories, especially your father's advice.

    Funny as I think I could easily adapt to living in the south. Though there are some differences between southerners and westerners, I share more in common with southerners than I do with those who live east of The River and north of the Mason-Dixon.

  3. Your geographic and cultural landscapes remind me of where I grew up in southeast TX.

  4. After growing up in deep Louisiana, I went off to college in NYC and then stayed far away from the South. This year, we moved to Texas!! I had fun re-discovering my southern roots. I completely understand your writing and your yearning for the memories of your "roots". Enjoyed you blog!

  5. as soon as i set foot in georgia back in the '80's, i KNEW i'd return here. i know what you're talking about, sugar. peace. xoxoxo

  6. I find it very interesting how strongly we imprint on our birth regions. I do know the "big sky" feel of wide open Florida vistas. It is like no other. I soooo agree with your statement about how much is missed by those who never venture into the undisturbed core of this state. What some call "Old Florida". It is a region where families pass along, like dna, the importance of being " one with the land ".

    Hope you and your Mom have a fine, companionable visit. Did you tell her about what you found along the journey to her side?

  7. I never knew Florida looked like that!! I see the attraction of 'your' field - I have one of those too, just a place I like to be.
    Not sure about the big top revival though? What is that???

  8. The pines remind me a little of the woods here in South Jersey. But we sure don't have any hanging moss in our trees - just toilet paper. Hope the rest of the trip is as memorable.

  9. anne huskey: i love what you wrote -time IS different here. my brother thinks i am "city" because every thing happens very slooooooooooooooooow at his house. waiting for something to'll be the longest wait you ever heard of.

    MRM: people often think I am from out west. I think it is the way i dress - maybe the land attachment thing too. But you would love our florida ranch lands..another big sky but different.

    xl: i bet! Im sure youve seen plenty of tent revivals blow into town as well. Ive hears a lot of florida ranchers have moved to east texas - maybe to escape prop taxes?

  10. I love your field but especially the trees. We just don't get them like that in these parts. You have a large dose of Scarlett O'Hara in you ... the connection to the land; not just any land, the land of your ancestors. Hope your mom is doing well. Enjoy your trip.

  11. What beauty .... and to see the endless sky, a treat for sure. One thing I miss, living where I am, surrounded by mts, is the horizon.

  12. I always love seeing places through your eye, and camera lens. Thanks for sharing a part of FL I've never seen, so lovingly captured.

    Holding a good thought for you and your mama.


  13. Wonderful post and images dear chickory, I'm so pleased that you were able to savor the beauty of this place once again.

    I think we are always drawn to the place of our birth and our childhood, I grew up no more than 5 minutes walk to the beach. I go back for a visit and though so much has changed I can block out the changes and still feel those memories of long ago ... something to do with the sea air I think and the sound of the waves.

    Your Dad gave you wise counsel.
    This is a beautiful place but could anywhere compare with the spirituality of chickory, the beauty of your forest cathedral and the memories you have made there?

    My thoughts are with you and your Mom.

    xoxoxo ♡

  14. I love your photographs. This blog is lovely! So touching!

  15. Honestly? I had no idea Florida was so rich in texture and landscape. You're right, I only think of Cape Canaveral and Disney World and your photos show a much more rich landscape.

    Tracing your roots is very catharic and I'm glad you're surrounded by family and your history right now. It was my salvation during difficult times.

    xoxox Sweet Chickie. I can just picutre you with a crow feather in your jacket. :-) How very Chickory.

  16. snippets/sarah: welcome! i love to visit NYC but there is no way i could or would live there. I am a southerner, and i would not likely live anywhere else. Texas sounds fun - you know, your state can secede from the USA if it wants to - its in its charter. It can be a stand alone republic. I think thats pretty cool.

    savannah: well you live in one of the most amazing southern cities - and talk about being haunted! I love Savannah. I got your note and I so appreciate your hug. Thank you sugah. thank you.

    fishy: no! I didnt show her the feather. she wasnt all that alert the first day. tomorrow I will tell her about it. Old florida. Yes. I was thinking today: if i was rich, Id buy one of these ramshackle cracka houses and have it dismantled and moved to chickory.

  17. Dan: tent revivals just seem to appear one day like mushrooms after rain. i think they are way shady - like a low-rent itinerant telepreacher. snake oily.but my brother says theyve been packin' em in.

    Buzz: grrrherhahahahahaha! oh those TP trees - im sure you'll see more of that as the Boy matures.

  18. Oh Sweet Chile', I is jes' real real sorry about yore Mama--reckon ain't much to add, 'cept I'll be tuckin' in a prayer fer yore visit wif' her.

    Doan know iffin' ya noticed afore in some of mah posts, but I growed up not too far from whar' youse findin' them gorgeous skies. I was born in Mississippi, but soon enough we'uns moved to HogTown Creek which be a whistle away from them evocative scenes ya' posted. I feel as if I has been right thar'! No wonder thar's a yearnin' in yore bones. I has the same tug-Uncle too.

    Flannery is one of the South's treasures. She were the wisest Southern Soul to take up a pen in them years--less'in' maybe it's Walker Percy an' Eudora Welty.

    Anyhoo, @MRM, Flannery noted that the South wuz a state of mind, not a geographic outpost. She be right.

    @ Tent Revival an' Flannery's "Christ haunted South", see what she wrote:

    "Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God."

    Great post, Pup.

  19. pam: oh girl. you know what I love? that scene in GWTW where Scarlett is all upset over Ashley not running away with her. Ashley puts a wad of georgia clay in her hand and tells her she will always love the land more than anything. she still has that clay in her hand when some carpetbaggers pull up and offer to buy Tara short and she throws the clay in their faces and says

    thats all of Tara youre ever going to get.


    Mom is doing better, I guess. Better just means not critical. she is still dying and theres nothing to be done but ride it out. thank you, though.

    faery: thats it! you described it perfectly. up at Chickory I never see a horizon. even on the mountain tops you still see more mountains. and the sunrise is late and the sunset early.

    eggy: thank you - im glad you like this landscape - and look! Im starting to like my camera. Im loving the wide angle lens.

    dianne: you sweet girl -yes you are right -my cathedral of trees and the noisy creek, the animals and the stars. of course there is no place like home, but this is like a place in my heart. I will be glad to get home and soon I will be preparing my seed beds!
    I will post some pictures from the sea later this week for you. thanks so much.

    Vickie: welcome and thank you. come back often!

    boxer: did you notice all the feathers i have collected and put in that rusty cone at chickory? hawk, turkey and of course crow. It is a comfort, I have to say, to be cradled in this landscape. and, its the only real inheritance I be southern I mean. ANd i cant explain exactly what that means. xoxox thanks again for st francis and the prayer. so thoughtful.

  20. aunty: i can always count on yore extensive literary knowledge to flesh out what I wanted to say and cant quite get there. I loved what FLannery said about southerners being able to still recognize a freak. thats a bona fide LOL. Being from HogTown creek i know you understand the sting of tear to come to my eye at the mere sight of those expansive and gentle hills with the big oaks. It really is as beautiful as it gets...and ive been to a lot of good places. thanks aunty, about my mom. I know your own mama is fading. its hard but we all have to face it (if were lucky) prayers to yore mom too aunty. xo

  21. Wow, does your site make me homesick. What can be better than spanish moss? I remember living in Florida before they built Disney World and Cape Kennedy was Cape Canaveral and tadpoles after a big rain. Reminds me of a boy I dated from Otter Creek, Florida. Oh to be young again!
    From a rainy England

  22. I'm a sucker for Spanish Moss.

  23. Chickory, my friend, you are a hellofa writer. I always feel like I am standing next to you, which is the best kind of writing, the kind that pulls you to place, and time fades. :) I am on my own good-bye road with my mom, and I am sending you love and hugs, and as many crow feathers as your button holes will hold. xox Pam

  24. Although my mother was from Germany, she quickly adopted the American southwest as her spiritual home and never looked back. She passed that same hold tight feeling on to me. And now my step father is finally selling the home he and my mother built 20 years ago on her most favorite place on earth and I wonder what will now happen to my ties.

    I'm glad that yours remain, although I can imagine they are, like most things the older we get, bittersweet.

  25. Looks like home to me! We sure did entertain the idea of joining you guys in the mountains, but in the end my heart feels most at home on the coastal plain. Don't know what I'd do without a few live oaks scattered around with some Spanish moss for decoration.

    Oh, and you wouldn't believe the thrill we got when, after our first rain at the farm, we discovered the resurrection ferns in the pecan trees! Better than gold guilding...

  26. Sorry we missed you on the way through south Georgia. Really would like to see you. Although every time you don't stop by just makes the gardens that much prettier when you finally do.

    @Tinkerbell the Bipolar Faerie: every time I see your moniker I chuckle. Don't know why, but it's just hilarious to me!

  27. LOVE Flannery O'Conner for her piercing irony and truth. Great post!

  28. It was hard to believe your photos were taken in first I thought they were from out West!

    Your father gave you good advice on the land you were interested in but it definitely is beautiful.

    Thanks for taking us along on your trip and thanks for stopping by today!


  29. Beautiful photos - "looking" forward to seeing more!


  30. i know exactly how you feel.these places that you describe, they are in your blood. they are part of your soul. that's how i feel when i walk across the land in mississippi and drive down those red clay dirt roads where my father grew up. that's how i feel when i pound the pavement of the city i grew up in in germany.
    as much as i love being surrounded by the beauty of the blueridge mountains, it's just not the same.
    your photos are beautiful, btw. i've always felt a connection to florida. i was born there.

  31. do know that i am thinking of you during these days of waiting ...

  32. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your Mama.

  33. Love the mom grew up around Florida and Foley, still have lots of kin there...we're in Gadsden, Al now...

    Love the quote by O'Conner, it's always been a favorite....

    I've recently been thinking about southern "mythology" (as it were) and how its affected me and how so many people can get it wrong (movies, books, etc.)and this post was the cherry on top!

  34. This is my first visit to your blog. I think I'll be here for hours!

  35. really want to write you a poem chickory,I missed the last one aswell, sorry,..will try again tomorrow...neil

  36. I stopped by for another looksee at the natural Florida beauty. This time around I wondered if you will soon be posting a new group of paintings from this sojourn.

    I hope so as painting your heart seems to be your specialty.

    I think it very brave and really generous of you to share with others. I am again struck by the conviction it takes great courage and resolve to stay the course of an artists life.

    Glad to read your Mama is improved. A visit is so very different from a vigil.

    Godspeed to you both.

  37. blue sky medicine
    fly on a glow
    far reaching essence's
    move evers flow
    crow feather lifting
    wander profound
    tensioning strings
    art in found
    river song whisper
    natured heart beat
    tune of eternal
    universe leap
    weaving the recipes
    climbing in trails
    tied to the feather
    in fine weather tales


  38. Thinking of you and your mom. Hope you are well.

  39. Oh honey. I hope the crow feather keeps you safe and strong in these difficult times.

    I know exactly what you mean. Home is an ache you can't properly articulate. It's just there, in the smell of the trees in the wind, the flavours in the food and the touch of the sun on your skin.

    I got through my dad's dying and death by 5 minute breaks to look for the beauty in the landscape, in the skies or on the ground. I never went back in without feeling lifted by it's presence.

    You're in my thoughts my darling.

  40. I feel so foolish. For so long I've associated you with GA, that it never occurred to me that you are actually from somewhere else.

    I look at these photos. Even though they convey a similar sense of familiarity to your estate (in
    that state up north), I sense something, I don't know, different about your photography other than the topography.

    Perhaps I am sensing the wisdom of your dad's counsel. In some ways, these seem like a more natural you. Maybe GA encompasses more of what you aspire to be.

    Whatever. I'm just rambling. My best to you and your mom, and the rest of your family. Maybe crow magic will help.

  41. I have oaks and more trees on my own garden here in France where I live but your landscape leaves me speechless. It's wonderful!

  42. Hello Ande,

    Thanks for your visit on my blog. I was very happy to see your comment!

    I saw you really love chickens! I've got 2 Ohiki roosters and 1 ohiki chicken. They became parents and now i have 10 little roosters and chickens walking away in the garden. They are so pretty and lovely.

    Wish you a wonderful wednesday


  43. The Guinea Hen is spectacular Chickory.



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