Thursday, February 13, 2014

 DEJA` VU ...
The experience of feeling sure that one has witnessed or experienced a new situation previously.
I spent Fall Break in Florida with my four oldest grandchildren. Of course we did DisneyWorld, including the roller coaster ride to the top of Mt. Everest... NEVER AGAIN!

After a couple of exhausting days we took a little side trip completely outside the realm of theme parks. We visited the LDS Ranch in White Cloud where they run 44,000 head of premium Angus/Brahma cattle on 300,000 natural Florida acres, with enough orange groves to produce 50 million glasses of orange juice a year.

It was beyond beautiful... huge oak trees dripping with moss, murky water holes filled with "gators" and whooping cranes, raccoons, and armadillos. Everywhere I looked the land was pristine.

I knew that I had never been to Florida but I also knew that this was all strangely familiar. It was very deja` vu.

After a tour of the outlying areas we ended at the ranch house, a small white framed cottage with a full wrap around screened porch. There was a 6' Diamond Back Rattlesnake skin tacked to the wall and a 13' taxidermy alligator named Gus living in the parlor. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I had seen this all before.

Our guide, a sweet little woman, filled us in on the history and workings of the ranch. She laughed when she told us that part of her job is to sweep the snakes off the back porch every morning and how she loves to feed a small group of white tail deer. Unlike the mule deer in the West they are tiny, about the size of a dog.

I made an audible gasp... I knew where I was...

I was watching a young boy named Jodi and a fawn named Flag run through the forests of central Florida with the freedom and naiveté that only comes with childhood. I was standing in my favorite children's book... THE YEARLING   by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize.)

I first read this book 35 years ago and was instantly drawn to the writing that is almost poetic and to the coming of age story that is touching and poignant. Now I was, quite literally, smelling it and seeing it and feeling it. Here are the beautifully written final few sentences from the book

"He did not believe he would ever again, love anything, man or woman or his own child like he had loved the yearling. He would be lonely all his life. But a man took if for his share and went on.

In the beginning of his sleep he cried out, "Flag"  It was not his own voice, it was a boy's voice. Somewhere beyond the sinkhole, past the magnolia, under the live oaks, a boy and a yearling ran side by side, and were gone forever.

Traveling is always a broadening experience. Some of us will do a lot of it and some won't venture too far from home. We all, however, can experience the world through books. "Faraway places, with strange sounding names" can become familiar haunts in the pages of a good book. 

To quote an English professor from my Alma Mater...

"Literature will illuminate your life"