A year ago this week we were gathering up what little we had left and were leaving Alaska. It was showing off its feathers, all pretty and glowing and bright light through birch leaves. The mountains hadn’t lost their blue-white caps of snow, but we still left, ignoring its pleas that we stay longer.
Here in Tennessee is hot, but we don’t mind. There are pools, and fountains, and lakes, and heavy thunderstorms, the kind that you smell and feel in your bones even before the sky darkens. There are lightning bugs. There are bare legs and tan lines and sweat and moonlight all year.
When the South was foreign and far away, when I was almost as far north as one can go and still be in America, I missed it (and I didn’t think I would). Now, whenever I pass a certain magnolia tree (that’s just started to bloom its perfect cream blossoms), I pause, and inhale slowly. The nighttime humidity brings out the blossom’s strong perfume, and I remember why I love living down South. It’s slow here. It’s all fine here. We’re happy here.
No, the South is not perfect. Yes, we have some corrupt, dirty politicians and there’s some residual haunting that clings and sticks and saddens still (slavery, segregation, Trail of Tears, etc). But people are, generally, genuine, hardworking, and kind. The scenery is diverse: sometimes calming, like the Atlantic Ocean and Spanish moss and swamps and red clay and dripping wisteria. Sometimes it’s breathtaking: The Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains are quietly dramatic, they don’t jut into the sky like the mountains in the West, but they draw you towards them gently. You don’t have to don expensive equipment or be an avid mountain climber to disappear inside their valleys. You just have to be you, and wear a good pair of hiking boots. A glass of sweet tea with mint won’t hurt, either.
So we’re back, and have been for almost a year. That cold, bright blue place still calls to us of course, and we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that it will probably pull us back at least one more time, whether to live or to visit. But for now, here we are, wrapped in the heat and the honeysuckle.