Naked

My newest work is currently hanging in an installation titled “What Wild Life Left”.  It’s the brainchild of my son, Gordon Millsaps.  Gordon is a sculptor/fabricator/engineer/visionary who lives and works in Brooklyn. When Gordon first hit town, ten years ago, he found that a cabinet company nearby was discarding long thin strips of pine.  They were perhaps a little less than an inch square, and eight feet long, or more.  He gathered them up and brought them back to the rough-hewn loft where he lived, and started constructing everything he needed out of these narrow strips of wood.  He made …

India

I got a map of India so I could trace my travels, and picture the shape of it.  It turned out the trail I traveled was no more than a tiny stripe running along the edge of that map— a glimpse of the hem of the handwoven thing that is India.   I went to India to experience color.   I sat beside the Indian Ocean and watched the graceful fishing boats out on the water with their bows that rose up in an attenuated arch.  One was  lavender, sky blue and the yellow of an egg yolk.  The beach was strewn …

Reentry

I  just woke up in my own bed for the first time in a month . Yesterday morning, up at 3 a.m., I drove through the French countryside, village after village, on the slowest route I could find to the airport. The spectacular full moon hovered all the way.  I noticed a while back that if I drove in the country with my windows down I could hear cricket sounds the whole time. This morning in North Carolina, I drove to the grocery near dawn so I could have milk for my coffee.  Over and over I have forgotten I’m …

Wood Smoke and Roses

  Twice today I had to climb the steep hill up into the village to the little grocery.  It was my night to cook supper.   At lunchtime I went up to finish my shopping, and then, when I poured my first glass of rosé at 5:00 and started cooking, I realized I had no butter, so I had to walk back.  The distance from our kitchen to the grocery store is the same as the distance from my kitchen back home to the backside of my farm.  Round trip, one mile.  The big difference is that hill.   On …

For BJ

What follows is a eulogy written for my college roommate, BJ Brantley Cooper, who left us far too soon, in late November, a victim of early-onset Alzheimers.  We were acquaintances, first, at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and later roommates at Carolina.  BJ met and married one of my best friends at Carolina, and 43 years later he asked me to write her eulogy.  At first I thought I couldn’t put her into words, but the more I thought about it the more I had to say.   She was always, as we had been at 18, dutiful, appropriate, and attendant to …

Time out of time, Portugal

I wasn’t happy to leave France and my friends and venture off into Portugal alone. I knew very little about Portugal, and all travel alone is initially scary. I had read that Portugal has the highest incidence of mortality on its highways of any country in Europe, for one thing. But Portugal has always intrigued me, so I was determined to plunge into it and see what transpired. When I read descriptions of the cities I would visit— Lisbon and Porto, it was hard to feel enthusiastic. Cities are not the place where I am most comfortable. But they are …

Back to the woods

Dusk and a half moon. Firefly lights smeared across pasture air. Frogs blanket the higher reaches with a thousand sounds. Steam rises off the land from the long awaited rainfall. It’s as beautiful here as the nights before when we camped alongside a remote creek. Hiking for hours— climbing past root and stone, finding the occasional gemstone— brown mushrooms the color of a tiny animal, nascent Indian pipes, dragonflies carved from turquoise with black velvet spider webs for wings. We locate four waterfalls and there follows looking at the world from behind sheets of water and speechless stone sitting. One …

The Magnolia tradition

Walking to the mailbox the other day I saw the first blossom on my new magnolia tree. It’s been decades since a magnolia grew on this farm. My maternal grandmother, Elizabeth McAlpine Gordon Covington (Bess), member of the DAR and the UDC, believed it her appointed duty to nurture and pass along magnolia trees to all members of the family.   She achieved this, I believe, by putting a seed pod in a clay pot full of sandhills soil and waiting for the appearance. She would then share the leggy and top-heavy promise of beauty with young couples just moving …

Green Pastures

“Pasture” is a wonderful word. It conjures up so many pleasant connotations. I grew up in a part of a small southern town that was called “the pasture” because that is what it had been before WWII. My favorite part of Psalm 23 is the image of God having his sheep lie down in green pastures. My kitchen sink overlooks a green pasture where I have often laid down. To watch clouds, to feel the sun, to soak up the beginnings of spring, or the endings of summer. Yesterday morning, as I was washing dishes and watching my pasture a …

Real Florida

  My winter exploring took me, this year, to Florida. It’s amazing that I allowed 40 years to pass between visits to that magical place. We set the goal of visiting the “real” Florida, skipping all the major cities, and focusing on the natural beauty and history. I’ve been yearning to see the Everglades as I have grown older and sunk deeper into my fascination with wild untameable places. I wanted to camp in it, and travel into it in a kayak. I wanted to sit quietly and watch it unfold. We chose Flamingo campground as a destination, where we …