Monday, September 10, 2012


I spoke at a conference at the Monmouth Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi over the weekend. In a downtown coffee shop yesterday, I met a woman who did her Ph.D. dissertation on Flannery O'Connor. I made the sign of the cross, then grasped her hand as if it were a first-class relic.

What was really interesting, though, was not having a spare moment to myself for approx. 52 hours other than when I was sleeping.

There's a passage in Ryszard Kapuscinski's The Shadow of the Sun about the capacity of the people of Africa to wait, in their case, for the bus, or village official, or rain. Apparently they go into a kind of fugue state, a kind of inward gathering or reserves, not moving, not breathing, not rising to relieve themselves.

Though appearing (I hope) to be fully functioning, I more or less felt/feel that way myself.



  1. I really like reading you but I also enjoy seeing your photographs. They're beautiful.

  2. After Egypt's Aswan Dam was completed, the fellaheen of the Upper Nile could no longer depend on the seasonal flooding of their fields with rich silt, as they had since before the time of the pharoahs. They were reduced to awaiting sacks of fertilizer at some provincial distribution center for hours, even days on end. In a book I read many years ago, their coping mechanism was described as kayf, a time-honored zoning-out without apparent object.

    The Jesuit anthropologist Henry Habib Ayrout described kayf as "a kind of wakeful passivity which means doing nothing, saying nothing, thinking nothing." The concept has stuck with me all these years because, well, it seems I've always been a master of kayf. :)

  3. The spooky South and Faulkner.
    Hope you have enjoyed your trip.
    I like the photos.

    While I was reading this I thought about you and perhaps you might be able to contribute.

    Very interesting site.

  4. I have never travel to the southern part of our country. But,from all the books I read about black history/slavery I did liked the geography and the plantation houses with their open porches on the second floors, but not slavery. The weeping willow trees looked so relaxing. Yes, I can see you taking it all in, making new friends. As for the woman who did her PhD dissertation of Flannery O'Connor,I enjoyed what you wrote about her recently. I can identified with her about her illness as I'm living with it. Life takes on a new meaning for eternity. Thanks, Heather

  5. I was in the Quarter today, too! We're down here from Alabama to bring supplies our church collected for hurricane Isaac relief. I love your blog and read it everyday. Good bless.

  6. One of the most haunting books I've ever read is Wise Blood. The movie did not do the book justice.


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