Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Prodigal Summer is eventually both surprising and deceptive. It is surprising because of the twists and turns of the lives of its characters, all of whom become completely, sometimes endearingly, always engagingly real. The deception arrives subtly to enlighten, because these apparently ordinary lives with their pressingly everyday concerns grow to illustrate and then eventually represent something of great significance, being the natural world and our place within it. Thus Prodigal Summer, a novel that begins suggesting a snapshot of a single season in the lives of just three households grows into a profound statement of their relationship – all of our relationships – with the natural world and indeed life, itself.

Deanna Wolfe is a mid-forties idealist who has chosen to live as a warden and ranger in the National Forests near Zebulon in the southern Appalachians. She is studying predators, especially coyotes, but apparently yearns to worship living things, especially those that are not human. She is beginning to anticipate the menopause of her own life-cycle as she marvels at nature’s ability to both regulate and reinvent itself. Crucial in this process, she feels, is the role of the predator, the animal at the top of the food chain, and especially the females of those species, those charged with husbanding its renewal. Her work seems all absorbing.

Then one day she meets Eddie Bondo. He is not from those parts. He is a hunting cowboy-type from out West, not the type, you might think, that Deanna would have time for. He is twenty-something, almost two decades her junior and he has a body plus a way of handling it that stirs the autumnal debris of Deanna’s psyche, debris that has accumulated in her continued, self-imposed and desired isolation. After all, in magnetism opposites attract.

Not far away there is Lusa. She came to these parts to marry Cole. He was the man who lured her away from her biology and installed her on a smallholding, where even the hardest work would hardly make a living, let alone create wealth. Lusa has some relationship problems with Cole’s family. After all, she is not one of them and, perhaps more importantly, her parentage has European and Middle Eastern roots. And – at least in theory – she is not even a Christian.

And then, one day she finds herself a widow. Cole’s family are immediately closer and yet further away at the same time. Sympathy partly overrides the tensions. Lusa has to begin dealing with them directly, not through the mediation of her husband’s filter. Problems of making a living might just be solved by going into goats. Goats? At least she still has time to study her beloved insects.

Not too distant are the neighbours Garnett and Miss Rawley. They are, shall we say, at the senior end of their citizenship and perhaps as a result rather set in their ways. Garnett is not just a Christian, but one of the breed that interprets the Bible, including its timeline, quite literally and can thus locate an exact date of creation just beyond 4000BC. He might profess not to be impressed by science, but in many ways he worships it by regularly dousing parts of his land and its flora in insecticides. If only…

If only that darned neighbour, Miss Rowley, would clear the cuttings and clean up that compost where al the pests breed. But she is a declared worshipper of science and cannot bring herself to interfere in any natural process, lest human intervention gets in the way of the inevitable. Miss Rawley and Garnett are not the most companionable of neighbours.

In Prodigal Summer these three households, each with their own tensions, relationships, feuds and priorities live cheek by jowl with nature. Animals, plants, the weather, chance and inevitability press themselves to the forefront of daily concerns. Thus they find they are in contact in more ways than one. Not only must they commune with the natural world, they must coexist, even communicate as assumption, motive and consequence push them in different, sometimes conflicting directions.

Of course, given Prodigal Summer’s theme of renewal and at-oneness with nature, it is no surprise that all things female are predominant. Reproduction, its necessity, its mechanisms, its intended and unintended consequences, its intended inevitability, runs not like a thread but like a strong, perhaps unbreakable rope that ties everything together. No matter what we do or think or feel, experience tries to lead us all in the same direction, as if the destination were pre-ordained, in spite of our determined meanderings designed to deny it. In Prodigal Summer, a many of the encounters are sexual. If it does not form the main argument, then the need to mate is at least preamble. There is never time to review. Life has a habit of taking us where it wants, ideas of control or self-direction being perhaps illusory.

But in the end these people all realise that they are part of the same natural world that, independently of human-created desires and prescriptions, sets its own pace, follows its own rules, precludes exemption and decides consequence. This Prodigal Summer thus reveals its surprises to all concerned, leaving them changed and transformed, older and wiser. The reader makes the same journey.

The Prize

In the spring of every year, hundreds, if not thousands, of enthusiastic hikers take their first steps on a 2,185 mile journey on the Appalachian Trail. Months of preparation have led to this moment. They have read books, bought equipment, packed food and talked to others who have come before them. They have diligently studied every aspect of the journey to come, and now they stand under the stone portal as they prepare to ascend Springer Mountain, the true starting point of the trail.

Yet no amount of study can prepare them for what lies ahead. Nature is beautiful and alluring and very hard. There will be sore knees, turned ankles, persistent thirst, lonely nights and lingering doubt. They will become exhausted from the searing summer heat in Pennsylvania, sudden lightning strikes in Virginia, downpours in New Hampshire, snow in the Smokey Mountains, or mud in Maine, and from unexpected obstacles of all kinds everywhere.

But, as they walk the trail and become hardened by its challenges, hikers will experience a change of heart and mind. With time and miles, a veteran slowly emerges; the novice at Springer becomes the confident and knowledgeable Thru-Hiker who will keep on striving to achieve victory over every large and small adversity. The postcard landscape of the armchair hiker has given way to a more profound understanding. What began as toil and trouble has become something akin to joy.

The seasoned hiker overcomes through endurance and perseverance. In this respect, he is like the faithful pilgrim. Both are on a long journey; both must endure hardships; both are tested at every turn. And both keep pushing on to the goal, knowing that there is a prize to be won: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Adventure Travel – Mississippi

Adventures Mississippi

Adventure travel is easy in Mississippi you will find the wonders of century old oaks, discover the history of the civil war, great food and of course the blues. Since you will be traveling in the south you may want to slow down the pace and travel on the Natchez Trace Parkway rewarding your 50 mph speed limit with scenic views and plenty of places along the way to help you to understand the southern way of life.

Hiking along the trails in Tishomingo State Park you will find a part of the Appalachian Trail that has been traveled for centuries. Ferns and plant life here are different from any other part of Mississippi. The hiking trails take you along refreshing creeks and around the big boulders. Spend the day relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

If your looking to find wildlife in Mississippi Homochitto National Forest is the best place to find it with two wildlife reserves within its bounderies plenty of places to hike off and enjoy the quiet beauty of the park. By now you should be able to just kick back and relax. Enjoy a hike around the man made lake or a refreshing swim.

You will find 26 miles of sun drenched beaches at the end of the highway. Travel to Biloxi you can take a cruise out to Ship Island where Fort Massachusetts housed prisoners of war during the Civil War. Walking along the beaches of Gulf Islands National Park will open a window on how the coast was hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

Travel along the Deep South Antiques and Wine trail to Natchez and discover some of the best Mascadine wine in the United States. Natchez is the oldest settlement along the Mississippi River full of history, fun and music. Some of the Natchez Indian Burial Mounds remain and here is a reconstructed village. You can steep yourself in history and wonder at years gone by.

The blues is the music of Mississippi for the blues lover you will find many points of interest along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Adventure travelers who travel to Mississippi will not be disappointed, where oaks, moss and history are a feast for the eyes. Southern hospitality will recharge a weary travelers batteries. A adventure trip to Mississippi will not soon be forgotten by anyone who takes their time and smell the Magnolias along the way.