Last Tuesday, I drove from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Even though the trip is 400 miles one way, it’s not a bad drive, not while listening to a mesmerizing audio book and watching farmland pass in all directions. I’ll admit the drizzle from Little Rock onward made it not so fun. You know how annoying almost-rain can be, the sort that makes for constant wiper speed adjustment with an occasional blast of the defroster to clear the foggy windshield.
My drive came with that sort of drizzle.
To make things even more interesting, the crack in my windshield continued to spread until it sliced directly through my line of vision.
Am I the only person who holds my phone up to the window and takes rainy, blurry pictures then deletes most of them later? Occasionally, I pull to the roadside and even turn around to see things more closely. Really, I enjoy solo travel. I do lots of thinking, remembering, writing inside my mind.
Lower Delta Talks
The purpose of my trip? Tuesday night, I spoke to a packed crowd at the Sharkey-Issaquena County Library in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. I was the October speaker for the library’s 2018 Lower Delta Talk series. With this event, I continued my self-proclaimed Gracie Lee / Mississippi River Book Tour. Rolling Fork is located on the Highway 61 Blues Trail. It’s my kind of small town filled with charm and history and loads of friendly folks who came with collard green dip and cornbread muffins and their own Delta childhoods to share.
It’s been over two years since The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee debuted. And during those two years, I’ve been fortunate to speak at more library events and book clubs than I ever imagined. One thing I’ve learned: these events are ALWAYS about the people I meet.
In the two hours I spent in Rolling Fork I met…
- a lady who was born in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, just up the road from where I live. (She’s a Feltner. As in Feltner’s Whatta-burger in Russellville.)
- a lady who was born on a plantation in Tuckerman, Arkansas. “Do you know where Tuckerman is?” she asked me. “Of course, I do. It’s near Weiner.”
- a farmer who met Midge Wilson at a agri convention. (Wilson, Ar friends, you know who I’m talking about.)
- The Whiteheads who lived in Keiser and Cottonwood Corner and know my Momma and knew my Daddy.
- Meredith from Mississippi who is first cousins with Eileen Jennings’ mother.
- And so on.
So Much Serendipity
The next morning during breakfast at my hotel in Vicksburg, I met a rather well-known and well-regarded writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He lives an hour’s drive from Fayetteville. How odd was it that the rainy day before we both drove from northwest Arkansas and ended up drinking coffee and talking about my book in the Vicksburg La Quinta? Why didn’t our paths cross in Northwest Arkansas instead?
Somewhere along the way, these Gracie Lee trips always come with a heaping side dish of serendipity. And I’m always left wondering if the side dish wasn’t the real reason for the journey all along.
Home Again, Home Again
I headed home but not without a quick stop to visit historical downtown Vicksburg. For a few minutes, the rain stopped and I walked along the riverbank taking pictures of the Ole Man himself. Because how could I not?
Even with another full day of sporadic drizzle, my drive dissolved into another audiobook and the satisfaction of knowing I’d left Mississippi accomplishing what I’d hoped to do—connect with a few more readers. In particular, I enjoyed the short stretch of highway through northeast Louisiana where knobby-kneed cypress trees wear the colors of autumn and kudzu swallows ditch banks and grain silos in one smooth gulp.
As I drove, I thought about all the places I’ve not yet visited, foreign countries and exotic islands down under and across the seas. But really, I’m a homebody. All it takes is a quick trip to Mississippi and I’m reminded of the special places and friendly folks only a day’s drive from my front porch.
Where should my next Mississippi River Book Talk be? I’m open for suggestions / invitations.?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.