Page 7. " two indigo plantations on the Mississippi "
Mississippi River near New Orleans
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMississippi River near New Orleans - Credit: duncan_idaho_2007

Indigo and Rice Paper Plants
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeIndigo and Rice Paper Plants - Credit: Ian McKellar
Indigo, cultivated for its rich blue dye, was grown on vast plantations and harvested by slaves. It was a source of great wealth for plantation owners, but is often thought to have caused serious health problems for the slaves who worked with it.

Further information on Indigo Plantations

Google Map
Page 8. " the moss-hung cypresses "
by cm


Spanish-moss on Cypress
Creative Commons AttributionSpanish-moss on Cypress - Credit: Natalie Maynor

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is not a true moss, but an epiphytic flowering plant (one that lives on other plants).

Page 11. " a saint in Arles or Lourdes who saw visions "
by cm

GNU Free Documentation LicenseLourdes - Credit: Milorad Pavlek
Lourdes, a small town in southwest France, is an important centre of Catholicism, following a series of appearances by the Virgin Mary to 14-year-old Maria-Bernada Sobirós in 1858.  Maria-Bernada was later made Saint Marie-Bernarde Soubirous.

The reference to Arles is more puzzling as the French town is not associated with any significant vision.  One important pair of visionaries, however, were Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh, who spent nine weeks living and working together in Arles.  The paintings from that period strike many as the product of some kind of vision, although it seems unlikely that Catholic Rice (even in her atheist period) would have considered the artists saints.

Page 15. " they bled me. The fools. "

Bloodletting was a common medical practice up to the late 1800s, intended to cure or prevent illnesses. It involved the withdrawal of blood, sometimes in large quantities, usually through puncturing a vein or by applying leeches. It was used to treat a wide variety of ailments, but generally left the patients in a worse condition than before.