Monday, March 18, 2019


Flooded cornfield of Lapp's Farm and Nursery

No, that isn’t a Louisiana flood scene. It’s the field I saw upon descending into the Cowan Valley yesterday on the first day of my return to Sewanee, Tennessee. The “pond” was actually a thriving cornfield last summer when we feasted on the sweet corn grown at Lapp’s Farm and Nursery just off highway 41a leading to Winchester, Tennessee.

When I glimpsed the flooded field my heart sank, and we pulled into the drive beside the nursery. The owners of Lapp’s were sitting on the front porch of the market/office smiling affably. I asked if they had an irrigation system that had broken and was told that heavy February rains in the valley had inundated their field and caused flooding of a large portion of their acreage, even into the basement of their home but State assistance had been promised.

“This is supposed to be a non-flood zone,” the proprietress told us. “So there won’t be any corn this summer?” I asked, dismayed. “God willing,” she answered. “Maybe the field will dry naturally.” It had a long way to go, I thought, giving her arm a squeeze. She went back to her rocker on the porch where her husband sat, engrossed in making calculations on his cell phone. They looked as if they had weathered the first shocks of this inundation, but my mind kept returning to images of a large field of green cornstalks holding their faces up to sunlight.

Apple blossoms

We drove on to Winchester for provisions, but that flooded field stayed in my mind until we passed an apple tree blooming alongside the highway, followed by forsythia, and a beautiful cherry tree in the yard of a wholesale nursery. I tried to put aside memories of last summer’s tall, healthy cornstalks and the succulent ears of corn we lunched on for several months. This morning as I sit at my desk listening to Mozart’s “Gran Partita,” I think about going down to the valley to see if Lapp’s market is open for Monday visitors since part of their produce is brought in from other sources. 

Cherry tree

I left New Iberia abloom with azaleas in my front yard and the advent of one spring to find another one here at Sewanee — different blooms abound but there are signs that winter may soon be behind us, although temps this morning were in the 30’s. Yesterday, I went outdoors wearing a short-sleeved shirt to clean the porches of our Sewanee cottage and welcomed the dry air of the Cumberland Plateau after spending a very wet winter in New Iberia, Louisiana. Imagine my chagrin when we drove past that flooded field near Cowan. 

Several plants in the herb garden over-wintered — thyme, sage, chives, lemon balm, mint, and the rosemary that remained to help fight off ticks and fleas, which deer sometimes bring into the yard and woods behind the cottage before they are culled in the fall.


Daffodils have bloomed and gone their way into the Also World, but a lone forsythia near the fence in the backyard shows promises of an early spring. It has inspired me every spring, and I showed my appreciation one year by writing the following excerpt from a poem entitled:


A branch of rust-colored leaves wavers,
its hesitation clinging to afternoon.

The only sign of spring is forsythia,
yellow sprays altering the gray sheet

of an all-day dusk,
tree trunks scaling lime green,

straight stalks in a folded-over day
and the tree’s eyes are closed,

shut out the parsimonious weather.
Crows caw,

announcing a black season,
crying, deliver me from approval

from the prostitute of memory
wind, come part the mystery;

I long for the light so elusive,
for the trees to open their eyes.*

*Between Plants and Humans, Diane Marquart Moore, 2014.

Photographs by Victoria Sullivan

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