Historic places are fascinating, particularly historic homes. Seeing how people lived and thrived over a hundred years ago while successfully changing the course of history without wi-fi and air conditioning is riveting. Historical voyeurism. But just like you and me, these folks worried about their country, the well-being of their children, their personal circumstances. They existed, survived, hoped to make a difference, prayed for rain and mourned the deceased. Walking along the beautiful Potomac exploring the grounds of Mount Vernon is akin to a religious experience. Strolling in George Washington’s footsteps, seeing his view from the lawn, his stuff, things he touched and held dear, his graveside tomb – how could every American citizen not feel a bit more united?
We have toured old homes in New Orleans with incredible architecture and rich histories. Jefferson Davis’ home in Biloxi is a true southern treasure, nearly destroyed by Katrina. I dare say everyone already knows how I feel about amazing Graceland…And Johnny Cash’s home, across the ditch from our cotton field, is currently being restored bringing a welcomed flurry of activity to Northeast Arkansas.
|The Man in Black’s House|
One of my favorite things about Key West, ranking right up there with deep fried conch fritters, is Ernest Hemingway’s house where he wrote poems and stories in the early morning hours and explored Old Town in the afternoons. Antiques from his travels fill the home, and exotic hunting trophies line the walls. Inspiration is palpable, wrapped in warm breezes off the island’s turquoise waters. His desk is there. I had a sudden urge to casually limbo underneath the velvet rope and lightly touch it, but I resisted.
Turns out there is commonality between Hemingway and me. His passion was writing, and I enjoy reading what he wrote. We both like(d) wine. And surprisingly, his second wife was originally from Northeast Arkansas, just like John’s second wife (me). They met and married in Paris, France, but she was an Arkansas girl from Piggott. Hemingway spent long periods of time there visiting her family and writing. Next week I will be attending a creative writer’s retreat in the Hemingway-Pfeiffer House studying and writing in this holy place. Somebody pinch me.
Hemingway wrote part of A Farewell to Arms while in Arkansas. For whatever reason, creative juices seem to flow in this unremarkable corner of the state – maybe it’s the pull of the mighty Mississippi which heavily influenced Mark Twain or the impoverished working man who impacted Johnny Cash’s bare-bones music. Or maybe sheer boredom stirs the soul. The quickly approaching writer’s retreat is a bit intimidating, pushing me completely beyond my comfort zone of blogging in familiar silence. How do I react if after ten minutes I’m advised, “Really? A writer? Bless your heart you should just return to your banking job…” What if I’m not good enough? What if I’m not good?