GrammarPhile Blog

A Great Moment in American Literature

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 20, 2014 6:30:00 AM

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Florida State ParkRather than a grammar post this week, we chose to devote the post to a great moment in American literature. Whether you're in a lofty Manhattan skyscraper or an out-of-the-way home office in the Australian Outback, we hope you'll find a quiet moment today to enjoy this moving excerpt from Cross Creek, a book about early 20th century life in the Florida "scrub," by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.


The spirits were after me, too. I returned to the veranda and paced up and down, up and down. Adrenna brought my tray and looked at me.

She said, "Oh, you sick. I kin tell by your face, you sick."

I was ashamed, for if I failed her, there was no other bulwark left.

I said, "I'm all right."

She cried out, "I know. You sick at heart. Don't I know. But please don't cry, else I be in the same fix."

I said, "The rain will be here any moment. You'd better get to your house before it comes."

I gave her Pat [a pet dog] to take with her for company, for her need was greater than mine. Suddenly the palms rattled their fronds, the pecan trees bent before a nameless pressure, and the wind and rain roared in. The rain fell in a flood. I thought of the mother duck on her nest under the allamanda, where the eaves of the veranda made only a partial shelter. Her clutch of blue-white eggs was soft under the thick down of her breast, but her dark head must be bowed under the force of the torrent. The rain pounded on the shingled roof and poured in sluiceways at the house corners. The thunder and lightning were the attacking cavalry of the enemy. The rain fell for an hour. Then a cosmic broom swept it away as swiftly as it had come, and there was the sound only of spent water dripping from the eaves. The thunder and lightning were routed, and the clouds that held them rolled away into the north, like dark driven horses. Unbearable, heavy hands released their pressure from my shoulders. I went out to the clean washed road and walked a long way along it, and turned to walk back home again in company with the sunset.

The sun itself was trivial. It sank humbly into the modest bed of subdued gold. But in the north, the east, the south, cloud piled on cloud, arrogant with color, luminous with lemon yellow, with saffron and with rose. Three bands of opal blue lifted suddenly from the sun. The west took over its own. The unseemly magnificence of north and east and south faded. The sun at the horizon came into its full glory and the west was copper, then blood-red, blazing into an orgy of salmon and red and brass and a soft blush-yellow the color of ripe guavas. Northeast and south faded instantly to gray, timid at having usurped the flame of the sunset. Then suddenly the west dimmed, as though a bonfire charred and died. There was only a bar of copper. All the sky, to every point of the compass, became a soft blue and the clouds were white powder, so that in the end it was tenderness that triumphed. I went home to sound, cool sleep.

From Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; Scribners (1942).


Rawlings' homestead still stands in Cross Creek, Florida. Learn more by visiting the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park website.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all