Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meeting Rheta

Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been sweetening my Sunday morning coffee for as long as the mind recollects.

Writing from her home in Fishtrap Hollow, Miss., or at various ports of call throughout the South, she finds wisdom in Williams (Hank, that is), joy in the morning, peace in a Louisiana parish. She makes me laugh. She makes me cry.

She is a graduate course in good writing.

I guess you could call me a fan. And, it's funny, whenever I finally meet those whose work I've long admired, I tend to tie my tongue. Did it to Tom Selleck in New York in 2001. Almost did it to Robinella in Michigan a few years ago.

But yesterday, when I met this Southern voice that has sweetened many Sundays, I found comfort in her genteel kindness, and managed to talk. She recognized my name from a letter I sent her after her husband Don passed away earlier this year. She was gracious. She was everything I had pictured her to be.

I don't know if you read her column or not. If you don't, you should. If it isn't carried in your local paper, you can find it online through King Features Syndicate.

She has written two books. One is a delightful biography of "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The other, "Poor Man's Provence," tells the tale of her decision to purchase a second home in Henderson, La., down in the Atchafalaya Swamp.

Among the million reasons I love to read Rheta is the fact that her words flow like a mountain stream, natural and calm. I sometimes disagree with her politics, but she often gives me points to ponder.

Later tonight I will go hear a speech she's giving for a fundraiser to promote literacy. Come Sunday, her column will be the first thing for which I'll reach after brewing a pot of JFG.

But, I will forever carry with me the crystal clear fall Wednesday afternoon that I met a favorite writer, a Southern poet, a kind woman with a gentle voice.

Much like reading her columns, meeting Rheta Grimsley Johnson warmed my heart.

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