I returned from the Mississippi Book Festival on Sunday afternoon. It had been a long three days of being present in a very public way, and I am still tired, but slowly recovering in my dear woods.
One hour after I had arrived in Jackson, buzzing from the four hour drive, I was on my way with fellow panelists to Eudora Welty's Home and Gardens. We watched a film, then followed various talkative guides through the house she had lived most of her life in. Knowing how private a person she had been when living and writing in those rooms, I felt a strong need to get away. At first I sought the restroom in the building next door, but then I found my way to the gardens behind the house. The others had moved on; the tour guide and my fellow panelists did not accompany my meanderings. And I came alone to the bottom of the garden.
A small clubhouse stood there. A sign with photos showed the Welty children at play, and also the adult Eudora, who eventually claimed the clubhouse as her own. Coming home to care for her aging mother, she would have need of the simple haven.
But I was not there to gape at Eudora's haven. I was there to find a few restoring moments of silence. There was an atmosphere of quiet, that filled my soul, and thus prepared me for the fullness of the festival. Once I ascended the curving walkway out of the rich green world surrounding the place where I stood, I would have to give myself to the public eye. The social clamor side by side with the human dearness to be encountered would wrap me round, and I would yield myself to being what it asked of me. I would be the writer, artist, and dancing daughter of my father at the Mississippi Book Festival.
But first I stood there in the fragrant stillness of another woman's garden, and I listened. Eudora had moved on from the need for earthly havens, but it seemed to me that something of her essence mixed with mine. Just for a moment... And I was fed.
I have left so much untold of my experiences at the festival. It was truly wonderful, and it was overwhelming and exhausting. If interested, I am sure you can find much about it on the web. They did film the panels, and I am told they will be available eventually, to watch and listen.