Timeout for Mississippi has squeezed the Timeout for Art to the sidelines this week. As you read William Percy’s words from his autobiography, “Lanterns on the Levee,” enjoy these images taken throughout the Mississippi Delta.
“My country is the Mississippi Delta, the river country. It lies flat, like a badly drawn half oval, with Memphis at its northern and Vicksburg at its southern tip…
Its western boundary is the Mississippi River, which coils and returns on itself in great loops and crescents, though from the map you would think it ran in a straight line north and south. Every few years it rises like a monster from its bed and pushes over its banks to vex and sweeten the land it has made…
For our soil, very dark brown, creamy and sweet-smelling, without substrata of rock or shale, was built up slowly, century after century, by the sediment gathered by the river in its solemn task of cleansing the continent and deposited in annual layers of silt on what must once have been the vast depression between itself and the hills.
This ancient depression, now filled in and level, is what we call the Delta. Some say it was the floor of the sea itself. Now it seems still to be a floor, being smooth from one end to the other, without rise or dip or hill, unless the mysterious scattered monuments of the mound-builders may be called hills…
…it measures one hundred and ninety-six miles, east and west at the widest point fifty miles–run slowly and circuitously other rivers and creeks, also high-banked, with names pleasant to remember–Rattlesnake Bayou, Quiver River, the Bogue Phalia,
…the Tallahatchie, the Sunflower–pouring their tawny waters finally into the Yazoo, which in turn loses itself just above Vicksburg in the river.
…In the old days this was a land of unbroken forests. All trees grew there except the pine and its kindred, and, strangely enough, the magnolia. The water-oak, the pecan, the cypress, and the sweet-gum were perhaps the most beautiful and home-loving, but there were ash and elm, walnut and maple, and many others besides.
They grew to enormous heights, with vast trunks and limbs, and between them spread a chaos of vines and cane and brush, so that the deer and bear took it for their own and only by the Indians was it penetrable, and by them only on wraiths of trails.
…Wild flowers were few, the soil being too rich and warm and deep, and those, like the yellow-top of early spring, apt to be rank and weed-like. A still country it must have been then, ankle-deep in water, mostly in shadow, with mere flickers of sunshine, and they motey and yellow and thick like syrup. The wild swans loved it; tides of green parakeets from the south and of gray pigeons from the north melted into its tree-tops and gave them sound;” – (William Percy- Lanterns on the Levee)
With memory cards bulging with images, I have yet to cross or peer at that great and mystical Mississippi River! In 48 hours, I will be crossing the Greenville bridge at night, and I look forward to presenting that grand river to you very soon.
There are so many stories to share, and I hope that this post has given you a tiny sample of the unique Mississippi Delta.