There are few things that I truly miss from my childhood. Looking back, I can recall just as many troubling times as I can recall good ones. But often, something I see or hear triggers a safe and happy feeling and I go right back to being a kid for a moment.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs this morning, The Writing Shed by Tommy Tomlinson. He was a student at University of Georgia, when I was a student. We were in the journalism school together, although I went towards the advertising/art side and he was a writer. We both lived in Charlotte for years, he is still there and I have escaped. 😉 He is one of my favorite southern writers, and not just because he is a Dawg. His thoughts and his observations just resonate. All of this to say, his blog took me back this morning, and started me thinking.

You will need to read his blog to get the whole story but this bit struck me: “As long as we have our memories, and others have memories of us, we are still doing all the things we have done, on an endless syndicated loop in our heads. That’s not good or bad, necessarily. It’s just there. And maybe it’s why a place where you haven’t lived in decades can still feel like home.”

As I was looking for something on my computer this morning, I ran across a picture of a cotton field and memories of my grandmother’s farm came flooding back. She had this little farm, and we would visit often as children. My brother and I would roam all over it. Inventing stories and imaginary adventures. Eating blackberries and climbing trees and walking through the sandy fields. It was a peaceful place to be. To disappear into another world and immerse myself in nature. To become invisible. To feel safe, happy and at home.

As a child I was always fascinated by the cottonfields around her farm in the fall. To me they looked like never ending fields of snow. (it doesn’t snow very often in Georgia, so you can see where I got a little confused.) It was magical. Soft, downy fluff. I can still remember standing in the sandy field surrounded by cotton….That hazy, warm early fall light and the smell of dry, dusty air, the kind that makes you sneeze just to clear your head.

In reality, cotton isn’t all soft and downy, it is seedy and prickly and picking it used to be back breaking work. So many have labored in the cottonfields in Georgia. Some because they needed to and some because they had no choice. For such a beautiful sight, it harbors a lot of good and bad memories. Tortured and evil memories, even.

My dad grew up poor and picked cotton as a child, until he left the farm at 15. He hated to even see a cottonfield as an adult. Driving down the highway, when we passed one he would mutter a few colorful expressions, the kind you aren’t allowed to repeat as a child. He could never understand why I thought it was beautiful, shaking his head at me and saying I had no idea what I was talking about.

And I didn’t. For me, a cottonfield wasn’t good or bad. It was just there. I could appreciate the beauty and the smell and the warm feeling of being surrounded by a wide open field and the call of the quail and dove around me. For me it brought feelings of peace and happiness. I haven’t been to the site of my grandmother’s farm in years, but when I see a cottonfield, it takes me there. It takes me to that “home” place.

Of course, I can also hear my dad’s voice in my head too, telling me a cottonfield doesn’t look beautiful, it looks like a backache. He is still trying to ruin it for me. Lol!

Cotton is neither good or bad. It is just there. We attach the meaning to it. Good or bad. Stand a hundred people in front of a cottonfield and there will be a hundred different reactions. It either makes you feel at home or it doesn’t. Happy, sad, angry, curious or indifferent. And that is perfectly fine. It’s all about the stories on loop in our head and in our hearts.

A cottonfield after picking near my grandmother’s farm.
“in high cotton” 30″ x 36″ oil on canvas

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I am a landscape painter living and painting on the Georgia coast. Painting and writing is a way to reach out and share my observations, my experiences and my inspirations with you. It is how I tell my story and the story of the wild, beautiful landscape where I live.

One thought on “Cottonfields

  1. So glad I took the time to read this. I didn’t grow up in the south but can appreciate the sentiment from my own youth growing up on a farm in upstate NY.


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