Friday, August 27, 2010

Away Down South in Dixie

I left the land of big, snow-capped mountains and find myself lost in fields of cotton. Gone are my fields of wildflowers and in their place are flowering tobacco plants and nobs of fluffy cotton bobbing in the wind. This morning I woke to filmy fog hovering in the air and for a moment it was as if time was suspended, was it present day or 100 years in the past? With the fog hiding any evidence of modern day life, I could have been walking a plantation where the landscape hasn't changed in many, many lifetimes.

I've always wanted to visit North Carolina and, now, I sit here torn as to how I feel. It seems to be a state with many different faces. We're in a town tucked up near the Virginia border. It used to be a thriving port city along the Roanoke River and a major textile producer. Now, the textile mills are closed and boarded up and the river has been forsaken for the high speed interstate that slices through town. The grand old plantation homes have been left to rot and ruin and they creak and tumble back into the earth. The town is depressed and depressing and...yet... there is another side it shows. I listen to the rhythmic voices around me, see the families gathered in the parks or sipping sweet tea on the front porch and find a different view. The slow drawl of stories told, jokes shared and miseries commiserated reveal a history of connection...of living. Tough lives, hard struggles and still the joy of life shines through.

If you move beyond the small, plantation towns and travel 60 miles down the road, you'll see a very different face, a glamorous, sophisticated, urban face. You'll find concerts, and cultural events, fresh produce, traffic, shopping malls, recycling, Thai restaurants and, heck, you'll even find a Trader Joe's! Upon first driving into Raleigh, I felt as if I had been backpacking for a month and had just walked out of the woods and re-entered the rat race. Talk about culture shock!

And, then, there is another face, the one I love, the one I could gaze at for hours and hours, the sun-drenched, rough-skinned, and rowdy face of the Outer Banks. Ahhh, give me a moment.... Ok, yes, the Outer Banks. Quirky towns, miles, and I do mean MILES, of soft, sandy, lovely beaches, warm water, pirate lore (c'mon, who wouldn't love a place that Blackbeard called his home), sunsets to die for, sunrises that insist that you get out and gather on the beach with other sleepy strangers in various states of undress and which make you all give a collective sigh as the sun rises into view over the watery horizon. There are crashing waves, sea air, strong coffee, Apple Uglies, and lighthouses. Magnificent lighthouses.

I never knew how much I loved lighthouses until I climbed the Buxton lighthouse at an ungodly hour after consuming the aforementioned strong coffee and Apple Uglie. Yes, there were moments of vertigo as I twirled around and around inside the kaleidoscopic interior twisting my way to the top but, oh, once I stepped out....ahhhh, I took a deep breath and just breathed it all in.

We're heading for the mountains next, a whole new side of North Carolina we've yet to discover. I'm curious to see what new face will be shown to us as the scorching summer fades into fall. I miss my mountains more than ever at this time of year and, ok, I'll admit it, I would head home in a heartbeat if Erik said he was ready to go but I know that we're on this grand adventure to meet new people, see new places, and appreciate new faces in the hopes that our world is broadened and enriched by each experience that we're willing to soak in. So, I'm pulling back my hair, slapping on some make-up and holding out my hand, hoping that North Carolina will put on her party dress and whirl me into autumn beneath the Great Smoky Mountains, showing this westerner how it's done in the South.

1 comment:

Jackie said...

Thanks for the interesting post. Many South Africans are visiting that part of the States these days and love it, the beauty of the countryside and the architecture, so I have read in the many articles they write when they return.


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