I believe that no writer has more accurately described Florida better than Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Writing from her little Cracker house near an orange grove over 70 years ago, Rawlings was able to perfectly capture this sometimes wacky but always special place:
“Any grove of any wood is a fine thing to see. But the magic here, strangely, is not apparent from the road. It is necessary to leave the impersonal highway, to step inside the rusty gate and close it behind. By this, an act of faith is committed, through which one accepts blindly the communion cup of beauty. One is now inside the grove, out of the world and in the mysterious heart of another. Enchantment lies in different things for each of us. For me, it is in this: to step out of the bright sunlight into the shade of orange tree; to walk under the arched canopy of their jade like leaves; to see the long aisle of lichened trunks stretch ahead in geometric rhythm; to feel the mystery of a seclusion that yet has shafts of light striking through it. This is the essence of an ancient and secret magic. It goes back, perhaps to the fairy tales of childhood, to Hansel and Gretel, to Babes in the Wood, to Alice in Wonderland, to all half-luminous places that pleased the imagination as a child. It may go back still farther, to racial Druid memories, to an atavistic sense of safety and delight in an open forest. And after long years of spiritual homelessness, of nostalgia, here is that mystic loveliness of childhood again. Here is home. An old thread, long tangled, comes straight again.
From Rawlings autobiographic work, Cross Creek, published in 1942 and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
If you’ve never read Cross Creek, or haven’t thought of Rawlings since you read The Yearling in middle school… check it out. The recipes in Cross Creek and subsequent book, Cross Creek Cookery are as outstanding as her prose.