I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as blessing – Flannery O’Connor
Yesterday, our basset hound pup Mosey had an allergic reaction to the lyme disease vaccine I authorized when the veterinarian with a German/Austrian/Scandinavian accent said that the illness was very prevalent here in this quiet Virginia country.
90 minutes later we were hauling ass out of the country to the nearest emergency vet, Mo’s head swelling up in lumps, his eyes pushed shut, his eyes ballooned. The reaction was bad enough to warrant a 45-minute drive. But given the distance, we had to weigh things – Benadryl now in case he couldn’t breath or wait until we got to town where they could give him an injection to take care of the full reaction more quickly.
I suspect city folks don’t have to take those choices into hand. Yet, these are the weights we live to stay in the country land that feeds our soul.
(Lest you think I’m down on city folks, I’m not. The weights of those places are vigilance and mechanized sound, gladly traded for museums and food that does not always involve the phrase “chicken fried.” I prefer the architecture of forests and blossoms, but I can find glory in the spans and arcs of buildings or see how those speak life to other people.)
The rural South has a special spark – it’s buried in bullets and plow blades, the reeds of cotton baskets dropped at freedom, the tiny house that hangs that Confederate flag with a pride so fierce you can almost miss that it’s broken.
This is my home.
We have survived the stereotypes that try to whiten up our town rosters and our history. We take our pride from the goodness and the shadows, just like everyone else. We say, “Bless your heart” and mean both “f*&^ you” and “I’d hug you if you’d let me.”
Our gifts are subtle here, mimicking the shades of green that tiptoe up the mountains this time of year.
- Our neighbors keep the tidiest yard – every stick piled to burn when the ban lifts – and we will all know when time turns one of them ill, the lay of their landscape littered with limbs.
- I walk into the Historical Society and tell the woman there where I live – “Effie Tucker’s house” – and she knows it, knew Ms. Tucker, took classes in the two-room school just a quarter mile up, where Ms. Tucker taught all her years.
- The lavender of redbuds and the cream of dogwoods line the forests like satin on a blanket.
Here, our internet comes through the paradox of satellite slowness, and we drive 45-minutes to get weekend medicine for puppies and humans. But we take these burdens for the gifts, would not trade Fios for the gift of peepers on the drive home at dusk.
We are far from perfect – so far from it – but we will bake you a casserole the day your mama dies, and we will sit and swap stories during the little league game. We will raise a hand in greeting from our porches as you drive by at 90 miles an hour in an effort to save what you love.
We hope you’ll come sometime and share a little of this quiet, Southern place with us. We’ll take a walk, listen to the peepers, and sit on the porch for a spell.