Cities are a dying breed,
Though those who live in them know not.
They’re full of people, noise, and need,
Yet lack the treasures man forgot,
The joys of wind and sprouting seed
And peace of mind that can’t be bought.
Here in Cross Creek, my writing wakes,
Surrounded by the Spanish moss,
By sylvan streams that link the lakes
And tiny boats to get across.
I moved here for the silence’ sakes;
The lack of clamor is no loss.
My neighbors are a different folk;
Like me, they tend to stay apart,
To work beneath the ancient oak
And never reckon to depart.
We hear the frogs in chorus croak
And know the creatures’ songs by heart.
Cities are a dying breed,
Though some say nature will go first.
Yet renters ever will secede
To find the home for which they thirst.
Cross Creek and peace will thrive indeed
When all the cities have dispersed.

(In honor of Earth Day, today’s NaPoWriMo prompt, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ distaste for cities, the poem today is a pastoral, focusing on nature and a bucolic setting, of which Cross Creek has no shortage.)

Cross Creek could be considered a VC Pick, since she loves this film dearly, but I’ve come to enjoy it nearly as much. It should have made my original list, but I couldn’t remember it well enough at the time. Based on the memoir of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, it stars Mary Steenburgen as the strong-willed but reclusive author who in 1928 bought a dilapidated house and orange grove in the Florida boondocks. Having lived in central Florida myself, I recognize the film as a tribute to the Florida “cracker” lifestyle, the rural frontiersmen who made a home out of the balmy wilderness. (I even remember taking field trips to Cracker Country, a living history museum that promotes knowledge of their early culture.) Rawlings comes to Cross Creek in search of silence to write but finds inspiration and love (with Peter Coyote!) in this unexpectedly homey landscape.

Watching the film again, it reminded me of another film about a famous divorced female writer who moves to a steamy countryside, falls in love with one of the first people she meets there, grows a tropical crop, bonds with the natives, and finds the inspiration for her best-known work, that film being 1985’s Out of Africa. Yet Cross Creek was released two years earlier and is less epic and more folksy than the later film. Instead of being a remake of Rawlings’ The Yearling, it offers a different yet recognizable sideplot involving the relationship of a child (a girl instead of the boy in the book) and a fawn (one of the most adorable things on four legs).

Made with the assistance of Rawlings’ husband Norton Baskin (who has a cameo toward the beginning), Cross Creek is charming and cozy, peaceful but tragic, and very well-acted. Rip Torn as Rawlings’ backwoods neighbor and Alfre Woodard as her devoted maid both received Oscar nominations, as did the costume design and the score (which is also slightly reminiscent of Out of Africa). Despite these honors, it’s a film that seems to have been forgotten for the most part, which is a shame. It’s most pertinent message for me as a writer is to write what you know, what you’re passionate about, rather than what is simply popular. Despite some awkward scenes and a conclusion that could have been strengthened by some added information, Cross Creek is a river well worth traveling down.

Best line: (Marjorie Rawlings, after a drunken night) “That is just the way I am. I go along quietly for a while and then out of the clear blue sky, I don’t know what happens to me, I just pick up a gun, and I shoot whatever makes me angry. I’m so afraid one day it just might be a person.”

Rank: List-Worthy

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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