Channeling Marjorie is an attempt, (an admittedly rough and untutored attempt), to search for meaning in the journey that took Marjorie Rawlings to the isolated and rural community that was Cross Creek. It is now a place of solitude, a fitting memorial for one who treasured the natural beauty of the region and captured it so well in her writing.
Note: The following represents just a few excerpts from the Channeling Margie Journals in “My Grandmother’s Shakespeare”…AS
“It is impossible to be among the woods animals on their own ground without a feeling of expanding one’s own world.” —Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Woods Are Lovely
Robert Frost says
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
The woods where the animals live and play are out of touch with the reality I face. No one wants to know about the animals that live in the woods anymore. And the people who visit the area go to museums to look at grasslands and marshes and woody areas. They don’t actually go out to look at a piece of land without a zoo or a restaurant or an amusement park attached.
There are some people, very few among us actually, who do like to live in the woods. Those kinds of people can be very peculiar. But there is a certain purity of spirit found in those who are attracted to the road less traveled and the road not taken. The type of pushback against the corporate powers that be is the type of back-to-nature movement that has existed earlier, in this country, but this time it does feel like the people have caught up to the message.
People are tired of bullshit. And it is so prevalent in our society that it creeps up your leg, fills your shoes, and overflows from every countertop in your home. That is why the kinds of animals that exist in nature—the cows and the birds, the wolves and dogs and pigs—are the only ones left with any kind of “street cred” concerning the purity of spirit of living in the woods. They are as one with the forest dwellers, and we must look to the land for our answers. The answers are given up in only the purist of spirits, and we cannot be trusted to see through the filters and lens provided by man. That is the answer to the question, “Why does a bear live in the woods?” Because it can.
“He lay with his head against its side. Its ribs lifted and fell with its breathing. It rested its chin on his hand. It had a few short hairs that prickled him. He had been cudgeling his wits for an excuse to bring the fawn inside at night to sleep with him.” —Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
There’s something about an animal laying its head on you. It’s like a baby, so soft and innocent. Animals that lay their heads on us are trusting of us, those of us who feel shame that we can live such lives of deception and sin and sorrow, yet how is it that our animals still love us unconditionally? That is the charm and allure of the animal kingdom, I think. The promise is one of unconditional love in the face of our overwhelmingly flawed personalities.
Margie said this: “We know only that as human beings we are very stupid.” That line says it all, because most of the time we don’t know what the hell we are talking about, yet we blabber on anyway. Now why is that?
That line is, in fact, one of my favorite quotes from Ms. Marjorie. The line that states that all we know as human beings is that we are very stupid. “Little brains” is what we’re called in the fantasy by Albert Brooks, a movie called Defending Your Life. We are all little brains at some point in our lives. We are victims of small thinking and small minds, of small-mindedness, small visions, and smallness in general, so it goes.
Now tell me, what is the usual Cracker Christmas dinner?” Whatever we can git, Ma’am…Whatever we can git.” —Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek
That quotation really speaks to the nature of the crisis where you’ve got your haves and your have-nots. We have been living since the Great Depression in a microcosm of Cross Creek, a place where the little people who hunt and slave and serve are segregated from the upper crust who is paying the salaries. They have snookered us little people, however, into somehow believing we are hovering on the brink. Meanwhile we are perceived as the cruel plantation owners to the rest of the world. To paraphrase Animal House, fat, dumb, and bigoted is no way to go through life. And coming at it from the outside in, we can see that the crust of the pie who are the haves of the Creek are at odds with the simple folk. In society it is and always has been the common man who is the backbone and center of the country and the hope-filled heart and soul of all rising societies.
THE FORGOTTEN MAN
Still in the twenty-first century, we are dealing with poverty. There was a short film I remember from my eighth grade class that depicted a future world with no poverty. There were people living the lives of “beautiful people” with electric air cars and jet-set lifestyles of the rich and famous. Nothing was said about poverty. Agelessly beautiful women and glamorous lives featured prominently. This was the promise of the Future that Never Was—it was a jet-set, Jetsons-style future where the Depression was far behind us.
The future now feels like the Depression-era of the thirties. The Forgotten Man is a whole new generation of young people and older workers who have lost their jobs and their lives.
The following question remains: “What is to be done about it?”
“Christmas is celebrated quietly at the Creek. None of the holidays has the festive air of the north…We have no need of the emotional outlet of specified gala occasions. Thanksgiving is only a name.” —Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek
What does Margie mean, talking about the “specified gala occasions?” The festive air of the North sounds like the moneyed air of the North (or South). Thanksgiving is only a name because that is what the day is called to give thanks for having so much stuff! We are all supposed to be thankful as Americans for being so fat and jolly and stuffed and educated and well-read and free to protest and free to speak and to vote and to sing crappy country songs about how wonderful it is to be so dang free all the time.
THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS IN DAYS OF YORE
Ah, yes, the sound of music—the sounds of Christmas and the poetry and little plays and games of charade that we play as we sit by the Victorian Fire and mull over the years past. As we contemplate the twelve days and then ice skate and play and go to house parties and church and feast and laugh and play and sing, whatever happened to those days of yore?
The days of yore are ours no more because those days never existed. This Victorian fantasy was some illusion that was woven into the life of the suburban dweller. To be used, I suppose, to support the notion of some beacon of capitalistic nirvana where the good folk who live in the white house at the top of the hill dwell. And the workers and the city people are all going to smile benignly as they sit and watch others having fun.
No wonder the people of this country rise up from time to time. We are a nation of dreamers, and we are all at the end of the rope. We are ready to awaken, yet this is no dream, but instead a nightmare of sorts that we were all forced to live in and accept as reality. And it ends with the Victorian novels of the last century when we close the book on this fanciful dream.
The life that we lead now bears no resemblance to that Victorian life that we were all urged to aspire to. We had been living with blinkers attached as we go forward looking into the past, Mr. McLuhan. No more. The future is not Victoriana, and it’s not Wall Street. Like Lawrence O’Toole of Arabia said with painstaking clarity, “Nothing is written.” We write our own destinies.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
Money is always a problem. It comes between thee and me. The way of the Lord is strewn with pathways of festering bodies that have been felled by the nasty specter of easy money.
But money is the root of all evil only when it is prefixed with greed. There is nothing wrong with having money. It’s what you do with it that counts. Gold chains and 10,000-square-foot homes with custom-made dollhouses built simply for collections of dolls are but a few of the problems in our society. The problem is not simply making money, but in spending money in ways that seem not only fruitless and wasteful but downright silly.
Here is where we need to realistically veer into the land of truly poor people. When people who worry from paycheck to paycheck about basic needs like rent and food see a landed class of gilded rich people behaving like Thurston Howell III, then we will have a festering problem within our society. My thought is this: People who are happy don’t go out into the streets and pitch tents and protest. The answer is not “Get a job, you dirty hippie.” It’s “What can I do to help? How can I become part of the solution?”
I know there is no easy answer, but here I am, Lord, ready, willing, and able to chip off a small piece of the larger problem and do my part. That is not the thinking man’s mentality that we are hearing. Instead we get more of the attitude of “I got mine, so what’s the problem?”
“There had been nothing special for Christmas the year before except a wild turkey for dinner, because there had been no money.” —Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
THERE HAD BEEN NO MONEY
This statement says it all. There had been no money. There had been no money for iPads and iPods, for twizzlers and trinkets and ga-zoozlers and Ka-Klinkers and BoBoozlers and Wee-winkers. Whatever the product that is the “it” thing to buy this year, that is what we have to have. That is part of the problem, not part of the solution. But the simple statement boils it down to the basics and brings it home. There is nothing special on the table because there had been no money.
There are foreclosures and people in the streets because they have no money. What they had, they may have lost. They may have worked harder than anyone, and still they are homeless and starving. That is not part of the American Dream. That is a bleak landscape where people live from paycheck to paycheck.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a great speech at the beginning of his presidency about The Forgotten Man. That is the place we need to be coming from. There is no such thing in God’s Kingdom as The Forgotten Man. Everyone is precious to someone. That is the plan and that is the dream. To focus on the American story and remember it in the re-telling brings to mind the prescient language of FDR when he said the following:
ALTHOUGH I understand that I am talking under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee, I do not want to limit myself to politics. I do not want to feel that I am addressing an audience of Democrats or that I speak merely as a Democrat myself. The present condition of our national affairs is too serious to be viewed through partisan eyes for partisan purposes.
It is said that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo because he forgot his infantry—he staked too much upon the more spectacular but less substantial cavalry. The present administration in Washington provides a close parallel. It has either forgotten or it does not want to remember the infantry of our economic army.
These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Please God, help us to never forget the plight of The Forgotten Man. He is us and we are a part of him. We are supposed to remember that we are all in this fight for life together. There are no easy answers, but if you don’t ask the right questions and if you give up before you start, then you will have lost the still vague American Dream.
THE FICTIONS WE’VE INVENTED