Friday, June 25, 2010

One Place

I have lived all of my 52 years in the South. I've traveled very little. All of my years I have spent living in two states--Georgia and North Carolina. I've rarely left the confines of the southern USA. I am not, as they say, a well-traveled man.

Because the southern USA is familiar to me, I feel relatively comfortable within it. The various dialects of English that are spoken from the low country to the mountains are all familiar to my ear and I can both understand and converse in these dialects.

The terrain, as diverse as it is here the South, is also familiar to me. I have lived on the coastal plains and tramped through the pine plantations and floated the tidal creeks and explored the swamps; I've also hiked the highest peaks the Appalachians offer, and bushwhacked into deep hardwood coves and have gone swimming in cold, clear streams full of native brook trout.

And I've scrambled around most of the Piedmont country in between these two extremes.

I have almost always been a lover of the rural over the urban. I've lived in homes in cities, of course, but I prefer the green, open spaces of the countryside. I'd rather deal with ticks and mosquitoes than the roar of engines and the screech of the crowds. Even the gunshots are different in the country--the occasional boom of a hunting rifle is almost reassuring after dealing with the pop-pop-pop of turf warfare on a city street.

My earliest memories are of tagging along with my dad into the countryside. We'd drive the dirt roads. We'd stop and explore the woods. We'd stop and buy quail or eggs or vegetables or home-kilned pottery from farmers along the way. I would hike behind my dad through the forests looking for Indian relics or just exploring the woods for no good reason at all.

Physically, I like the South. I even like the heat, although I occasionally curse it as I pursue my job as a laborer when the sun is bearing down and the heat lies like a great, wet, sweat-inducing blanket over the world. As a kid I would stop as we tromped along sandy roads looking for bits of stone and clay left behind by the natives who preceded us to these shores. I would walk atop this sandy soil and look around me and see the pines standing tall, planted in orderly rows, waiting for the saws that would turn them into logs to be pulped for paper. I'd stand there and listen to the world around me--the constant buzz and rattle of a billion-billion insects clattering their wings together, roaring.

No matter where I go or how far away I end up going, I'll never forget the South. I am a part of it, and it is a part of me.

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