The Lilies of the Field, They Toil Not, Neither Do They Spin

Hambidge Center for the Arts and Sciences Rabun Gap, GA 

Last day here. It seems like I’ve been here forever; it seems like I’ve been here no time at all. I seem to be so unable. Unable to hold both in my hands at the same time: my real world and the stillness, the expectancy, a place like this forces upon one. Here, one has to take things as they come. At home, I am mistress of my domain. I make things happen. I am the fulcrum that pries children into school, the net that flung out, snares them into sleep at the end of the day.

Of course I’m not any of that, really. But the message of modern motherhood is always that you can be, you must be, so sometimes… more than half the time… sometimes, I think I’m that important.

I arrived resistant. Maybe going away to write would be like looking into the abyss, I joked before I came and that was not much of a lie. Head full of things: the upcoming election, maternal guilt (a good mother wouldn’t leave her children for so long!), the price and availability of gas (the gas stations I saw on the way up into the mountains that were hung with plastic bags and caution tape seeming a bit Mad Maxish), daughterly guilt (a good daughter wouldn’t expect her 73-year-old mother to be able to get a three-year-old to school!), how much food there was left behind in the house, spousal guilt (a good wife, having found childcare for 10 days, would have spent that time second-honeymooning with her long-suffering husband!).

This is what I was given: a cabin, knotty pine walls, the smell of green Palmolive soap. The trees outside the window, straight, like a crowd gathered waiting to see what I’d do. The sound of a crow, and mist over the hills, cast out like a magician’s scarf.

There is a painter here: raised somewhere in Texas, she makes her home now in the desert. Her specialty is painting mist. Captured on residencies like this in black and white by old-fashioned 35 mm camera, color digital images, video cam. Surely she knows what metaphorical hay could be made from it all: an artist so singlemindedly preoccupied, with painting air?

She is very very good at what she does. And I’ve decided to view the way she drives down the gravel road here every morning on her quest to find clouds, as valiant, quixotic.

We do what we do, and that might be all there is to it. How much examination can any of this bear?

There are bees that hover in the fall sun above the purple flowers massed on the front lawn here, and hives in the field across the road, white and boxy, in rows like tombstones. The sound of one bee, what is it but the noise a body makes, doing what it must, going about its business? But the many! Their hum rises from the flowers like a orison cast toward heaven, and walking past makes me want to lie down on the grass until I understand everything bees have to say.

The leaves have begun changing in the time that I’ve been here.

Last night there was a screech owl in the trees that flanked the road between dining room and studios, but when I tipped my flashlight up toward boughs, it thought better of shrieking.

There is a creek across the road, and in an elbow of land, a fallen-into-nothing rounded stone springhouse.

Spill and rivulet, such a Georgia creek, poured like cream from a pitcher into flat, shallow expanse, the surface puckered with half-moons.

The bright vine that snakes up a particular tree I can see from my window is the one thing that, mornings, catches the sun first: is probably poison ivy.

There is gold beyond the green here when the sun comes up, a bird I’ve not seen before on the power wire that sags between studio and road. It is my last day here.


  1. There’s some truly lovely and deep in the bones turns of phrase in here; I hope that means some good writing got done and that the ten days were, all told, a good ten days.

  2. Funny. I was thinking of the movie “Lilies of the Field” today. I love Sidney Poitier in it. “Amen! Amen!” Said to myself, “I would be happy to watch it again tonight.” But instead, I’ve read your post. Also, had screech owls in neighborhood this summer, but haven’t seen since breeding. I envied your sighting. Hope you got some good work done, and I’m glad you get to see the family soon.

Comments are closed.