danniewriter

From Magnolia to Mississippi

The song, “Once in a Lifetime,” by Talking Heads has been going through my mind quite often of late, especially the lyric, “You may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?'”

Never thought I’d find a kindred spirit in an eccentric Scottish rocker, yet here I am.

For reasons frequently murky to even myself, I recently moved from Kentucky to Mississippi. At a very tired 53, I thought that, maybe, I had one more transition in me. Living a landlocked life for virtually all of my existence, I’ve always loved the beach. Not the crowds or the mid-summer heat, but the awareness of the vastness of the world that I seem to experience nowhere else except standing at a point where land disappears underwater.

I get the slightest twinge of fear in those quiet moments, realizing how possible it would be to get lost out there on the water. I don’t feel the same about getting lost in Kentucky’s mountains, forests and hollers–although Lord knows, under the right circumstances, I could pull that off quite nicely with just one or two stupid moves.

In my few short months here, I’ve discovered a few things about Mississippi:

  • Whatever number of Waffle House franchises per capita you think could be considered excessive, double it, and you are getting close to reality.
  • Ditto Sonic.
  • They grow roaches big down here. The palmetto beetles I experienced in Georgia would be flayed into submission immediately by the monsters here.
  • When driving to Mississippi from Kentucky, Alabama becomes the largest state in the lower 48, extending all the way to the Florida Keys.
  • A fried oyster Po’ Boy is food of the gods.

I like the small-town feel of Gulfport. It has fewer than 70,000 residents. Most recently, I lived in Louisville, which is Kentucky’s largest metro, and home to more than 600,000.

I lived in Louisville for several years, and love many, many aspects of that great city. Still, I often felt like a fish out of water, having spent the first years of my life in small-town Appalachia before the family moved to an even-smaller town pretty much smack dab in the middle of the state.

You’ll notice that Magnolia (population 524)┬áis in capital letters, however. (Note: this is a vintage map that incorrectly identifies the LaRue County seat as “Hodgensville.” The correct spelling is “Hodgenville” … It matters.)

The excitement and fun of the transition from Magnolia to Mississippi (the latter being the Magnolia State, by the way) is struggling to outweigh some fairly epic disasters regarding my new home. A dear friend tells me the house was suffering and I’m here to rescue it. An appealing thought, but Bruce Wayne, I ain’t.

My takeaway on the entire experience is that spontaneity often comes at a very high price, literally. Were I looking for a smooth transition to assure me of the wisdom of my decision, I’d be as lost as I sometimes feel when I look at the Gulf.

It is what it is.

I’m here. Loving my gorgeous 300-year-old live oak in the back yard, meeting new people, and after living in gas-gouging Louisville for more than a decade, reveling in $1.95/gallon unleaded.

How did I get here?

I’m trying to tell myself that answering that question isn’t really all that important. The bigger question is, “What now?”

Hell if I know. Stay tuned.

The cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky.

Foto Phriday (the back porch)

backporch1

121 Lavenia Lane, my grandparents’ home in Magnolia, Ky., was quite a lifeforce, just as my grandparents themselves. As a child and teenager, the homeplace was closely clipped, pruned, painted, and “picked up,” but of course as my grandparents got older, a type of wildness crept into the place. But even the wildness had a beauty of its own. In those last years, the flower beds were always full but never planted, the blooms appeared voluntarily from the countless plants set over 50-odd years of living and gardening. And, although many basic chores were forgotten by my grandmother, she always kept the porch and carport swept clean. If there were puddles, she’d up-end the broom so the bristles would dry without warping … so perhaps not so very wild really.

Winter in Magnolia

fence

This fence separating the yard from the garden and orchard at my maternal grandparents’ home was temporarily bejeweled by an ice and snow storm several years ago. Yesterday’s snowstorm reminded me of the many snowy days and nights spent at my grandparents’ home, and our nearby farm, in Magnolia, Ky., especially during the winters of 1976-78. Weeks without school, days of winter fun that slowly became icy boredom, long underwear, wet socks and thawing the dog’s water dish every morning.