Below are two mini-reviews of books recently read. I am struggling with allergies (or a head-cold) but hopefully will be able to get out and sail tomorrow. The salt water should do me some good!
Leland is a professor at Virginia Military Institute, but grew up in the tidal waters north of Charleston, South Carolina. This book lovely describes the relationship between the marsh and the people who lived by it along with the changes that have occurred from father's generation (and generations before that) to his son’s generation. It is a sad because with time comes loss, as Leland moves from the marsh to the highlands of Virginia and learns that his attempts to plant native trees from his childhood are not successful. But he keep going back, partly to share the unique environment with his son. But the marsh land is being developed and with more access there is a different type of loss for those who depended on the water for a livelihood. He writes about the effects of DDT and how the marsh came back afterwards, but there are new threats.
Like Leland, I grew up in a similar setting when time was often set by tides and fishing, crabbing and oystering was a fact of life. He writes about the Goat Man who lived on a barrier island and I was reminded of the Fort Fisher hermit. There is a chapter devoted to my favorite tree, the longleaf pine and he tells of driving through roads of the trees in Francis Marion National Park that were "as straight as an old maid's back in church" and how, when you arrive in "a uncut stand of old growth longleaf, you've come as close to paradise as you will this side of the grave." Leland tells great stories utilizes wonderful metaphors and sharing many of his father's tall-tales. He is also able to build many of his on cycles: generational, tidal, day and night.
A favorite quote: "[W]hat politician will resist the siren call to see our birthrights for a mess of pottage." (61)
Amy Blackmarr, Above the Fall Line: The Trail from White Pine Cabin (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2003) 140 pages
This is the third book I've read by Blackmarr. The books form sort of a trilogy centered around three remote houses/cabins in which she lived during a period of her life in which she begins to focus on her writing. In her first book, Going to Ground, Blackmarr leaves the Midwest and moves back to Southern Georgia where she moves into her grandfather's old fishing shack while she gets her life back together. In the second book, House of Steps, she returns to Kansas to work on a PhD. Now, she's back in Georgia to recover after having failed her oral comprehensive exams. She settles into a small cabin owned by her uncle in the Georgia Mountains. Throughout each book, there are hauntings of ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands. Blackmarr seems to find her best companionship with her dogs, whom she loves and captures their personality in her writing. But even with our four-legged friends, there can be loss as they die. Although I did find a "woe-is-me" element in this book, I appreciate the way she is able to enjoy and find hope in her natural surroundings. Having hiked through North Georgia along the Appalachian Trail (which ran just west of her cabin), her descriptions of the land and the people rang true. She speaks of chesterdrawers, boiled peanuts, and spontaneous generosity and I nodded my head in agreement. I enjoyed reading the book and was relieved at the end to learn that on her second try, she did pass her exams and, I suppose, is now Dr. Blackmarr. I am not sure what has happened to her. It appears she has written only one more book that deals with ghosts in the Georgia gold-mining town of Dahlonega (not far from this cabin). That book was published nearly a decade ago and I haven't found any other books or articles published by her (at least under this name).
Favorite quote (and a candidate for the sentence with the most use of colons in the modern world): "So you can keep this truth in your mind: that wherever you go, and whatever you're up to, there are two things that never die no matter what you believe, and no matter what the weather: there is all this kudzu down here in Georgia, and there is love. (130)