I am tired. I am mighty glad to be headed home tomorrow. Yesterday and today were the last two painting days of "Leg One", spent in Louisiana and Mississippi respectively.
Yesterday was grey and cool and I did not leave myself many options for finding a landscape in Louisiana. I spent the night in the northeast corner of the state. I naively thought that I could access the Mississippi River from Highway 65, a "scenic route". Later I realized that the pattern on the map may have actually indicated a railroad, as tracks ran next to me the entire length of my drive north. Finally, when I was within 16 miles of the Arkansas border, I pulled into "The Byerly House Visitor Information Center" in Lake Providence. Edith greeted me from a large desk two rooms back. The building was old and hot; she was very hospitable. She said, "In Louisiana, we take our cypress trees seriously," so I set up on a boardwalk on "Grant's Canal" (he attempted to build a canal to the Mississippi and failed) and painted the trees that grew out of the water. I packed up three hours later and headed North.
I landed in Clarksdale, Mississippi rather randomly; it fit my itinerary. By chance there was a busy Mexican restaurant within walking distance of my motel and that is where I met George and Goldie, my Clarksdale angels. I do not overstate! We struck up a conversation at dinner and before I knew it, they were chauffeuring me around town on a guided tour. These two are not just any old locals - they know the historical significance of every home and building (like the rectory where Tennessee Williams spent childhood with an uncle). They know the owners of very unique places like the Shack Up Inn, an inn made from the original sharecropper shacks on the Hopson Cotton Plantation. (I highly recommend checking out their website - very cool place!) They told me all about "The Juke Joint Festival", a blues festival that celebrates past and living history. (This event is going on my calendar! And, in the small-world-department, Mississippi Gabe Carter, the son of very good friends of mine, plays here every year.) I am so glad that this city was exactly three hours north of my landscape location in Louisiana.
The next day, today, I went back to the Shack Up Inn to paint. I liked the old buildings with the vast, flat delta beyond. The people I met there were friendly and open. An artist with a studio in the seed building behind my setup, affably showed me his work-space when I needed a break. It was inspiring to see where he makes his art and to hear about what motivates him. After wrestling for over two hours with an 11x14 of a silo, windmill and other structures, I packed my paints for the last time this trip.
I will drive 9 hours tomorrow to spend the night in my very own bed. I miss my boyfriend, my dog, my friends and my house. The best part about traveling is returning home!