Take a moment to listen to my reading aloud of William Bartram’s Words, from William Bartram’s Travels.
Cupressus, n. cypress, cypress wood, cypress wood casket
Disticha, v. to separate, divide, distinguish, punctuate, point out, decorate.
The banks of the river are divided by the growth of the distinguished Cypress trees, which point out one’s journey through the swamps and river deltas of the South. Standing tall, sentinels, marking the path of water flowing beside them, punctuating the water’s surface with their knees.
Tall, mysterious, stained the deep black of a cypress swamp, rising above with ferny leaves, so soft and inviting. Their trunks red, above the waters.
The Last Ancient Cypress of the South…
I traveled through the Mobile river delta to the last ancient cypress in the south. 2700 years old, its trunk was nearly 30 feet around. William Bartram may have rested his bark beneath this very cypress on his journeys 200 years ago.
The difference between his view and mine is this: When he was here, a 30-foot cypress trunk would not have stood out in the forest. The entire forest would have been of cypress that large and larger. Whereas I saw the ancient cypress as extraordinary, a unique production of nature, standing out among cypress trees I could easily stretch my arms around.
To reach the ancient, I had to paddle a canoe several miles. Then bank the canoe, and hike through the swamp, at times in water up to my knees. Beneath the water was a deep layer of silt, settled there by the river. It was gray and slippery, and my feet sunk into it, sucking greedily, it pulled off my sandals. Halfway through this hike through the swamp, I went to take another step, but my feet were both firmly lodged in this slippery muck. They went out from beneath me, and my rear-end landed in the water and mud, my hands went up, holding my Nikon safe above the water’s surface.
No mud on my backside for naught!
Meaning well, my companions told me that I could see the tree from where I was, and did not need to complete the journey. What they didn’t understand was that I had just paid the price for the journey, and now, if I came back covered with mud and silt and wet, and did not get some good pictures, close up of that tree, all that mud on my backside would be for naught.
My father, perceiving my determination, cut me a walking stick, and I made it to the magnificent tree and back again without further mishap.
“And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.”
“Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,“
I invite you, my wonderful readers and audience, to click on an image to acquire. Owning a Beth Thompson Original will not only give you something to be proud of, your acquisition will go towards the creation of additional works, and the publication of this blog. 8 inch prints can be acquired for only $40.*Opening stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.