This past Saturday, Ashley picked me up and we wandered our way up to the Delta. On the way we ate potato logs and fried okra, cataloged the increasingly gigantic kudzu monsters of Holmes County, and she spotted a hidden swamp which we learned was once the favored haunt of a lonely woman who would glide through it on a flat-bottomed boat mounted with a writing desk.
We wove around Cassidy Bayou in Sumner until Southern Grey Gardens came into view. The trip up was to see two grand people, Maude Schuyler Clay & Langdon Clay, who also happen to be two of the finer artists to ever grace Mississippi. They may also be the most kind and welcoming people in all the world, let alone funniest (at one point I gave in and just started writing down everything anybody said, I was laughing so hard).
Over the day we ate good soft cheese on crusty bread, laughed about Spring Break trips to Windsor Ruins, talked about politics in Tallahatchie County in the fifties, and we heard about the now-faded yet already legendary New York of the 1980s (this was maybe my favorite, echoes of that world which might as well be Narnia left humming in my ears). Subjects broached included the problem of human evil, how great Stax Records was, bedbugs on the N train, and whether we should get cake or not (I am always in favor of getting cake).
And there was art: art suffuses the fabric of that place, sparks off the fingertips and toes like static electricity, radiates out of those three people. It gets on you, gets in you, makes you want to go make something, find a moment that is beautiful and share it with somebody else. A worthy challenge for life.
At some point we went out walking the dogs, and this is a Polaroid of Langdon and Ashley and Maudie walking and talking by the courthouse in downtown Sumner. The film, a great surprise from Ashley, was gently expired circa 2009, and gives everything it shows a golden glow. Yet this is how I think of that moment: suffused in light, soft, a little otherwordly. In a life gifted with wonderful days it was one of the best.
We left our wonderful hosts and headed back to Jackson, and as it neared midnight there was a moon so high and bright over the fields that it felt like you could almost reach up and grab it with your hand and pull it down and take a bite out of it. I didn’t though, because I was still full from all the cake.