The Picnic (Gaither 1909)


“Everything begins and ends at exactly the right place” – Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock

Oh the hills could they sing, bring the gathering to a ring, for the food that families eat is a sacrifice to where history sleeps.

“The full moon has just left us”, said Mr. Dalton with a sigh, his eyes searching for spirits as they ran increasingly by. It’s the fourth of June in 1909, in a circle near Gaither with the Ozarks marking time, the spell for memory is nigh. It was what begins a family or a friend, a neighbor wanting closure on a funeral that’s just been, a picnic in the meadow, near a grave or two or ten, and the woods of twilight’s future watches all over them. It’s the Dalton’s, with the chicken, and the Miller’s with the pies, someone whispered lightning’s there in Crooked Creek, by where little Ably Watkins drowned and died, like Lazarus he just went to sleep.  He won’t wake up and we don’t know why.

Daisy said, “the picnic brings us one under sky, the Fullerton’s a yonder I haven’t seen them, in week’s gone by.  And all of us together at Gaither, how time does fly”. All the woods around them whispering legends of epochs and by gone lies.  And the children run together, two by two they look for lore, until Ethel calls them forward unto lunch on the grass floor. And each ear she does whisper, “play and feel your own sweet worth, but keep wares that you see each others face where spirits might lurk”. “And you should not go where your unawares, for keepers will stay you there”.

Now it could be that no one looks to notice what is there, in the shady trees of Gaither round the mountain a specters lair, for it comes from layers deep, bringing questions when it speaks. Be it witches or be it spells, from the time that legends dwell. Oh the hills could they sing, bring the gathering to a ring, for the food that families eat, is a sacrifice to where history sleeps.

“The sun is setting soon”, said Joe Sylvie to his sister Zella, where she stood, “and I think I do declare, this days ending without a dare”. And they laugh and turn away, for they know they cannot say, what is family, what is faith, in the history of this place. For what begins and ends in rest, all around the circle crest, hats and bonnets, beards and bows, an eternal spirit glows. And the picture shows it best, fading faces all are blessed, at Gaither, where in coven, the families make the right place a nest.

Oh the hills could they sing, bring the gathering to a ring, for the food that families eat is a sacrifice to where history sleeps. – 04.28.2016 – דָּנִיֵּאל


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