Have you ever felt completely and inexplicably drawn to something? Like a painting that you could never explain to another person, but you buy it and hang it on the wall and no one aside from you understands the fascination? I am like that with the south. The southern United States, to be more specific. I tell people it’s the climate that I’m attracted to, but it’s more than that. It’s something I cannot explain that pulls me deeper and deeper in. Having been raised, for all intents and purposes, in the Pacific Northwest, it makes no sense for me to want to shed the Pacific Rim rain forest canopy, the rocky beaches, and make a beeline for the sticky, humid, buggy climate. But that’s just what I did. And here I sit. In a farmhouse that is older than all of the homes I’ve ever lived in, combined. Where on a spring night, the sound of the insect world is deafening until you learn to tune it out as “white noise”. I am sandwiched between tobacco, sweet potatoes, lightning bugs and orchards of pecans. Nothing is familiar. Not the topography, not the vernacular, not the wildlife. Gone are salamanders and ferns. They’ve been replaced by wild onions, Venus Flytraps and green Anoles that come inside and hang from the drapes. And it’s soothing in it’s own way. But it’s not enough. I’m restless. I’ve visited the other states, the other cities. I’ve seen the Citadel and the horse drawn carriages of Savannah. I’ve basked on white sand beaches facing the gulf. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. Been there. The commercial tourist strips that line Myrtle Beach. The farm stands overflowing with peaches, and the swampy lowlands that glow with a million eyes at night. The accents, the katydids, the oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. I’ve soaked it up and taken it to heart.
Wikipedia refers to the dark red states as the “modern deep south”
If you’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, you know how Elizabeth was drawn to Italy. In a way that was practically indescribable. I can totally relate. But I’m not looking for authentic Italian pasta or architecture that dates back to the time of Cesar. I’m looking for plantations surrounded by wrought iron gates. Oak lined drives. Fields full of billowy cotton bolls, awaiting the harvest. The land of Harper Lee and John Grisham. Or better yet, Fannie Flagg…
The pull is now tangible. I must surely know how gypsies feel. I nearly purchased a 1970’s Winnebago from Craigslist this week. When my significant other caught me emailing the owner and asking questions, he looked at me, so baffled, he could only utter “do you have any idea how hard it would be to drive one of those things!?” And I don’t care. I want to head west and visit Asheville. I want to take in the Appalachian mountain chain first hand, I want to waterslide down slippery rock and see the Memphis that U2 chronicled in their legendary “Rattle and Hum”. I want to visit Alabama again. Historical Birmingham and beautiful Mobile. In the spring time. “Roll Tide”. Jackson, Mississippi deserves a first-time visit in my imaginary gypsy Winnebago, (the home of The Help by Kathryn Stockett, nominated for three Academy Awards and actually filmed in Mississippi). Jackson is on my short list. And I want to land in New Orleans. Walk the streets so colorfully described in A Confederacy of Dunces; visit cafe’s where Capote surely drew (at least some) inspiration for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I can taste the beignets; the cafe au lait made with chicory and served on a lightly covered patio. Shrimp and grits, barbeque two ways – sweet and sticky or full of vinegar.
When I envision my ideal afternoon, it is not in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, it is on a garden veranda with hanging ferns and scalloped wrought iron balconies overlooking cobble stone streets and narrow alleys. My idyllic south is full of brown pelicans, historic football rivalries and tooth achingly sweet iced tea.
Oh, I can wax poetic about the things I don’t enjoy “water bugs” (read: giant Asian cockroaches large enough to name and consider pets), hurricane warnings, humidity that renders your hair uncontrollable… But not today. Today I’m feeling the pull to go deeper south. To head toward even warmer climates.
Anyone have a Winnebago I could borrow?