Last weekend Will and I traveled to Mississippi for his 10-year high school reunion. We couldn't attend both of ours this spring, and since Will doesn't get to make it back to his hometown as often as I do mine, we opted to head out east/down south to visit family and friends, and of course, attend the reunion. The reunion had its fun moments, (and its awkward ones--wouldn't be a reunion without them I guess!) but isn't what inspired me to write today's blog.
What did inspire me were the following: 1) How history is a part of everyday life in such a unique way in the South, and 2) How lush and green everything was at this time of year, but in a totally different sense than it is in the Pacific Northwest where I'm writing this from!
When we pulled up to Will's parents' house, I was immediately drawn to the old fan seated upon a stool in the garage and spinning off a warm breeze. The whiff of air felt hardly refreshing against the backdrop of humidity, but the fact that this probably 80-90 year old fan was being used rather than preserved really struck me. I'd have stuck the thing in a window sill or on a shelf to display it and probably wouldn't have thought twice about USING it--but this is what I love about the South (and yes, I mean to use a capital 'S' when I talk about it because it's not a direction, it's practically a state of mind!). I love that history is just a part of every day life down there! Often while driving, Will points out battlefields or historic sites that aren't necessarily marked by monuments or placards, but are known to locals because of the tradition of oral story-telling that is so prevalent in this part of the country. Pictured below is an exterior shot of Will's grandmother's home which is now about 100 years old. It's still being used by the family even though no one lives there, and it seems quite natural to do so in this neck of the woods. Where I'm from it'd get torn down in a heartbeat and the land would be used to set up some chain big-box store. Blech.
While we were in Mississippi we took the time to photograph the grave sites of family members (Will's great-great grandparents are all buried within the state which I find fascinating as mine never even made it over to Canada and no one knows where they now lie!) and also the WWII dog tags worn by Will's Pop who recently passed away. We both have a love for family history and understand the value in preserving these details for future generations who may not grow up within the same vicinity as their ancestors.
The South is a lush, fertile region that invites growth whether the locals appreciate it or not. While no one can deny the beauty of the prominent Magnolia (the state flower) or the richness of produce that grows in this moist climate, everyone takes care to point out the poison ivy and kudzoo creepers that take over vast amounts of woodland, or the dangers that come with standing too close to any sort of swamp water ('gators and snakes and bugs oh my!). Everything grows in this place and everything gets big--the blackberries get huge, but so do the cockroaches! In every place you have to take the good with the bad and I'd prefer to focus on the good which is why I've tried to show off this verdant region's richest blessings. One of them being the backyard pond, which is not an uncommon sight in many rural areas around the country, but what I've never seen before are the often elaborate docks which folks build over their fishing holes down South! Neighbourhood docks in this area are typically graced with gazebos strung with white lights, platforms featuring picnic tables and lawn chairs, and structures decorated with ferns and hanging flower baskets. I'd been wanting to get a few photos of some of them, so I was pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon family friends fishing off of theirs one day. Miss Karen and Mimi were fishing using live crickets as bait when Will and I showed up along with Liz & Michael, and I quite liked the relaxed feel that this everyday experience held for me.
I can't help but find myself mesmerized by Mississippi every time I visit. There's always something new that stands out to me, and I quite love being inspired by the everyday aspects of life elsewhere. The rural South often gets a negative rap from those living in urban environs across America, but there is so much richness that gets overlooked, which is truly a shame. Those who travel to the South often go for the food, music, and civil war history, but there's so much beauty in just the simple pleasures that the locals love and I for one believe I am destined to embrace it all!