The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Museum of Art

Kenneth Snelson, Verlane Tower

George Segal, Three Figures and Four Benches

When I was a kid, living in places like the Northeast or the Midwest I became fascinated by Spanish Moss. I don’t remember when I first heard about it…. These were the days long, long before the internet, of course, and even television was only in black and white and hard to see (only three channels anyway) so I would have had to have read about it in a book or maybe seen some in a film.

The thought of a thin, filmy plant growing in the air, hanging from trees, seemed so exotic to me, like it was an alien organism growing on our own earth. I did as much research as I could – which at the time consisted of looking up articles in the various encyclopedias in the school library – and thought about what the stuff looked like in real life.

We were going to move from Kansas to Panama and would be flying out of South Carolina. This would take a long drive, three days – with stops in Memphis and Atlanta. Thinking about the trip, I realized that there would be Spanish Moss along the way. As we moved farther south I eagerly stared out of the window. Somewhere out of Memphis, little bits of fuzz began to appear here and there until once we were close to Atlanta, it was all over the place.

That evening, I walked around our hotel looking at the Spanish Moss. It was everywhere and it was as amazing as I thought. I couldn’t believe that people actually lived in the midst of such wonder and didn’t give it a second thought. The next day, in Charleston, South Carolina, I found even more – it hung thick in the trees like a living cloud, an aerial wave of plant life. I still remember the feeling of seeing the stuff, feeling it in my fingers, looking at it up close.

There is an amazing quality to the curiosity of youth… a passionate sense of wonder.

Now I live in the South and see the stuff all the time…. But when I do I still feel the echoes of those days.