Stupid old stupid old

Some fascinating—no, unbelievable—geographic facts:

The southern terminus of the Cascade Mountains is Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They exit the state east of Meridian and end somewhere in Alabama.

Portland is the largest city in Mississippi. It lies in a north south line between New Orleans and Memphis.

There is an area of small barren mountains just southeast of Brookhaven, Mississippi. I spent 37 years in the area without even knowing about them. Now, they are among my favorite places to visit.

The eternal snows of Mt. Hood loom large just east of Jackson, Mississippi.

Mississippi is known for its mild summers.

I often encounter such facts in my dreams, and am challenged to make sense of them. Since they are facts, I am able to do so. When I awaken, I realize that I had my facts somewhat, shall we say, confused, and I am forced to abandon them. I had rather have the dream facts because, in my dreams, Mississippi is an improved version of Oregon, and I am eager to move back.

Peggy never confuses the two states in her dreams, but then she wasn’t a Mississippian; she was an Air Force brat with Mississippi roots. She has already lived in Oregon far longer than she ever lived in Mississippi. When she was a kid, she hated the place so much that she made a vow to never fall in love with a man who lived there. Then she met me.

If I had my rathers, I had rather live someplace close enough to Mississippi that I could easily visit (it being 2,500 miles from the Willamette Valley). The problem is that I don’t know where that would be because I need wilderness, and wilderness is hard to find in the South. Here, people become lost in the woods while taking a Sunday afternoon hike, and they are NEVER found; their BODIES are never even found. You would have to work really hard to pull that off in the Deep South. You can hardly even escape the sound of people in the South. Here, there is wilderness. Here, there are mountains. I couldn’t give those up. But today, on my blog, I heard from a California woman who grew up 20 miles from where I did, and I felt that longing, that kinship that I never feel for someone who grew up twenty miles from Eugene.

Being from Mississippi is like getting a stain on your best shirt that won’t wash out, and that people from other places never seem to get on their shirts. You don’t even know why you can’t rid yourself of stupid old Mississippi because, after all, what is so special about the stupid old place? The stupid, humid, suffocating heat? The stupid fireants? The stupid mildewed everything? The stupid, provincial, impoverished, undereducated, pathetically obese, and grotesquely waddling fundamentalist Republicans who consistently outvote their Democratic counterparts who look like themselves only in a different color, and who don’t have much interest in voting despite all the rigmarole of the ‘60s? The stupid impossibility of finding whole grain foods or vegetarian options? Sure! Who wouldn’t want to live in Mississippi? Same humongous box stores and tacky fast food joints as in the rest of the country only in a Third World setting with no alternatives.

“Why, Snow, I haven’t seen ya’ll in a coon’s age. How are your folks?”

“They’re dead.”

“Oh, my, that’s just too bad. I didn’t know they was that old. You know, everybody used to say that your mamma was just the best little cook they ever saw, and that your daddy was such a hard worker. The last time I saw them was out at Mt. Zion when Uncle Elbert died, and they was looking kinda poorly then come to think of it. Look now, I gotta run, but don’t make such strangers of yourselves. Ya’ll drive out and see us sometime when you’re back home.” Course, we might like you about as much as we like pus from a dog's anus, but Mississippi don’t call itself the Hospitality State for nothing, so we have to talk like this even when we don’t mean it.

Why, why can’t I be done with Mississippi? I have no family there (except for one sister who would NOT be glad to see me); I have no friends there; I own no property; there’s nothing in particular that I’m dying to get back to. Missing such a place is like having a mental illness; it is self-destructively irrational. Still…

Peggy’s mother died there last summer, and I told Peggy that if she wanted to move back to be near her father during his declining years that I would be willing. She looked at me as if I had offered to hang her upside down with no clothes on and dunk her in Crater Lake (way deep, way high, way cold). But what if she had said yes? I would have gulped, but I would have moved. God knows, I would have moved. I would have regretted it before I saw Eugene, Oregon, in the rearview mirror, but I would have moved.

35 comments:

Matawheeze said...

Sounds like some part of you still believes the grass might be greener on the Mississippi side of the fence. Problem is that Mississippi side, as you know, is not only many miles away but many years away and many memories away. How nostalgia, or her cousins does fool with our brains. "In my day we.... " Caught myself thinking that recently. My 20 year old self would have kicked my 62 year old self in the rear axle!

Natalie said...

You have enough on your plate without moving!!!!!!Be careful what you wish for........

Gaston Studio said...

I was born and raised in Savannah GA and I miss it so much, it sometimes brings me to tears.

Unlike you and Mississippi, I really love most things about this beautiful city; and I can well 'forgive' those things I'm not too particulary fond of.

There is something trying to pull me back and perhaps there's also something trying to pull you back Snow. Maybe unfinished business.

Lille Diane said...

I understand the old ghosts, the growing up town or state, the way it calls you to come back even if you know you'd never move back. I often entertain the notion of going "back home". My grandparents are buried in Pagosa Springs, CO, and the daydream that brings me comfort is that I would become the "keeper of their graves". Become the guardian gardener for all the people long forgotten, too, buried on the hill side at the base of the Rocky Mountains. I've never seen a more peaceful cemetery in my entire life. It's the place I want my ashes to be scattered about by the wind that sweeps though the fragrant pine trees.

This area of CO is where I have my earliest memories. I remember details of this era of my life better than I do what I did yesterday or my current neighbors name. Why is that, Snow? I still have flying dreams and this is where I fly back to.

Home is where the heart is. But sometimes your heart makes a home in a memory. No house cleaning in that home. Only long strolls down familiar lanes.

"Well, sugahhh, now that I've kept you standing outside the back door for so long.... Why don't you come in and let me get you some coffee. Or I have sweet tea. Oh you just have to have a piece of my peeeee-can pie...."

Hugzzzz, Snow. Great post. Nice sitting on the front porch with you.

Pease Porridge said...

It is interesting to hear you talk about Mississippi. Every year we drive through Mississippi and Alabama to get to the coast and I always think, wow, it just seems like there is nothing around but heat and bugs until you get to Mobile. Sounds like I might be right. ;) I am sure there is a lot of beauty too.

Jennifer

Sonia ;) said...

I commend your honesty and that you would have moved for her. selfless act of love...nice to see.

Smiles,
Sonia ;)

Snowbrush said...

Matawheeze "Sounds like some part of you still believes the grass might be greener on the Mississippi side of the fence."

I think the angst is caused by having lived for decades in two places and identifying with both of them. Whichever place I am in, I don't feel entirely at home.

Natalie, I don't seriously intend to move, probably ever.

Jane, I've only heard good things about Savannah. I especially remember my visit to Fort Pulaski. If I loved a place as much as you do, I would probably get serious about planning how to go back to it. Do you?

Lille Diane "Become the guardian gardener for all the people long forgotten..."

I often have such daydreams. My father's house was abandoned by the woman who bought it, and I think about going back and living there as I fix it up--of saving it. But saving it for how long? I'm sixty. And saving it for what? My father would never expect me to do such a thing. He would want me to stay here. Anyway, I guess you wouldn't have to actually live there to do a lot of good for a cemetery, but then that wouldn't fulfill your fantasy of complete dedication and perfection.

Lille Diane "remember details of this era of my life better than I do what I did yesterday or my current neighbors name. Why is that, Snow?"

I suppose you make it more important; even see it as a halcyon era, maybe.

Pease "it just seems like there is nothing around but heat and bugs"

Pretty boring, huh? People often see the Great Plains as boring. I see the Middle Eastern deserts on the news, and think they look boring. But when you know a place intimately, you see what the person who merely drives through it misses. On those rare occasions when I fly from Oregon (known as one of the prettiest states) to Mississippi (the natural beauty of which has been plundered again and again), I am struck every time by how beautiful it is, partly because the beauty of Mississippi is a very different kind of beauty. Oregon's beauty is more like masculine beauty versus the feminine beauty of the Deep South.

Sonia "you would have moved for her."

Of course, it wouldn't have been all for her. It would have been partly to see what I could make of my own life there after the passage of all these years.

Michelle said...

Go for a visit Snow...get it out of your system :)

Life at Star's Rest said...

I used to feel that way about Texas...I got over it! ;) Carmon

Snowbrush said...

A visit, Michelle? I was there last July for Peggy's mother's funeral. It didn't help. I think that, some things, one must simply live with.

Carmon, I thought that hating Texas was compulsory for New Mexico and Colorado residents--kind of like hating California is here in Oregon.

All Consuming said...

Ohhh it sounds amazing where you live, I'd love that, for 6 months of the year at least, the other 6 would have to be spent in a city. Twud be the best of both worlds to me.

Mim said...

I'm from Brooklyn and I miss it like crazy but could/would never move back. I know it wouldn't work for me - why would I ever want to be there again? I think it's the knowledge of childhood that we crave for however bad our childhood was - there still was innocence and bliss. We know that it can't be recaptured...but we still want the familiarity and comfort of "home".

Lisa said...

i am catching up on blog friends because i too have been out of action but with depression of all things........
I just wanted to let you know i am still here, still reading, still sending angels........
and smiling again too
xxxx

Maya said...

Just catching up with your posts. Snow, I find myself in the nostalgia place too, but not for a location but a time gone past...the place, the people and the memories. I think it might be the age that I am at when so much has been experienced and so much is just memory. Who knows if the memories are even accurate, or just a figment of my imagination...a snapshot in my mind's eye.

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Where you are sounds pretty good to me too!

JOE TODD said...

Just for a moment there I thought
"Your cheese had sliped off your cracker" Maybe that is an Ohio term I don't know. There are days I can't even find my cheese

Snowbrush said...

AllCon, yes, it is beautiful here. Much of the Western U.S. is. Here in Oregon, there are mountains, deserts, broad valleys, beaches, and rain forests, all within a two hour drive of where I live.

Mim, Peggy and I very nearly moved to Staten Island instead of Oregon. I spent a month there and loved it. She visited for a few days, and that was more than enough for her.

Lisa, I've been thinking about you. Thanks for the angels. I would send you some if I had any. Ha.

Hey, Maya, so good to see you. I think the accuracy of memories probably increases if they involved recurring patterns rather than specific incidents.

Reasons to be Cheerful, I like it here except for the short, wet day of the wintry season. They drag on from November to May.

Joe, I've never heard the term. I think there must surely be five Ohioans who follow my blog by now so maybe they can say if its a regionalism.

Sarah said...

I feel the same way about Michigan, poor economy and all.

Incidentally, I live in Memphis, which is veeerrry close to the Mississippi border...if you ever want to visit we could discuss religion and politics :)

Snowbrush said...

"if you ever want to visit we could discuss religion and politics :)"

Sarah, I have no thought that you are serious, or when I would ever get to Memphis anyway (my connections being below Jackson), but I would truthfully like nothing better. You could even take me to church without the least fear that I would stand up and challenge the preacher or embarrass you in some other way. I love it when you come around my blog. There is no pleasure quite like being in utter disagreement yet being able to maintain respectful--if not affectionate--dialogue. I really appreciate you. BTW, I haven't forgotten about that piece you were going to write.

Hilary said...

Sounds like a love/hate relationship. You can't live with it.. you can't live without it. I've never quite felt like that about a geographical place, but I sure could relate in other ways over the years.

Renee said...

Of course I absolutely love it.

It just seems like such a diferent life from the rest of the world.

To me it seems like a foreign world.

Love Renee xoxoxo

Pease Porridge said...

I agree, what travelers see along the interstate is not even a glimpse of what is within. I always look at my town from the interstate and think, why would you want to stop here? That is why I wonder, what is beyond this gas station or truck stop? Who are these people and where are they going? It seems like you can see nothing for miles, but something holds them there.

I even think that about my own home! You have to take a long winding road to get there that most people hate, but once you are there it is everything you need.
Jennifer

Daryl said...

First, thanks for your visit and the comment about black and blood vs pink and blood, I am planning on working that into a conversation next time I am invited to a cocktail party ;-D

AND I gotta say you write good, I'll be back!

Sandi said...

There are so many things I could say in response to this post, but being a good Southerner, I won't.

There is great beauty here, even among all the thorns. There are even great people here who fight every day to make their home a better place. We aren't all ignorant, fat and Republican. I promise.

Lisa said...

still here- growling as women of the earth do.
smooch xx

Snowbrush said...

Yes, Hilary, it's a love/hate relationship for sure.

Renee, it is no doubt very different from urban Canada. Then too, I left the South in 1986, so I often write memories of another era.

Pease "what travelers see along the interstate is not even a glimpse of what is within"

How true. It's the difference between seeing versus knowing.

Daryl "I gotta say you write good..."

Thank you, Daryl.

Sandi "There is great beauty here, even among all the thorns."

But in saying this, you don't deny the thorns. It is the people of whom you speak that I miss. In the South, such people feel a sense of camaraderie that they don't here. When I was there, I noticed that my best friends often came from elsewhere, and I was bound to them by a common sense that we did not belong.

Sandi "There are so many things I could say in response to this post, but being a good Southerner, I won't."

I am puzzled here, Sandi, both by what you could say and what you mean by "good Southerner." Riding around Mississippi with my ACLU bumper sticker and my "Love Animals Don't Eat Them" bumper sticker, I was keenly aware that I was not being a good Southerner, but a traitor to Southern values. Here, there are liberals and conservatives, fundamentalists and atheists; that is to say that there are different camps within which a person might find his place. I did not experience this in the South. There, it was commonly believed that there was but one right way, and that it was conservative and fundamentalist.

Lisa, I'm glad you're still growling as women of the earth are known for doing.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. to Sandi. My feelings for the South are simple or without ambivalence. Please see July 14, 2008, which was my last visit there. I've changed some family and place names, but it is otherwise true.

Maggie May said...

Maybe a visit would be the best thing. Moving is so final.

Sandi said...

"I am puzzled here, Sandi, both by what you could say and what you mean by "good Southerner."

What I mean is that I could defend my state in a way that would insult you, but because of my upbringing I won't do that.

Thanks for your response ... I'll check out your older blog post.

Sandi said...

And you are right about the politics here. People who are moderate to left are treated horribly when they voice their opinions. That's shameful, but the South certainly isn't the only place where people get so up in arms about their views that they villanize those who disagree. In the president's commencement remarks at Notre Dame, he encouraged people not to cartoonize their opponents (not an exact quote). I wish my friends and neighbors here would take that to heart, but hey. Don't we all.

Snowbrush said...

Maggie May, I'll no doubt visit again someday. I have no thoughts of moving.

Sandi "I could defend my state in a way that would insult you..."

You mean you would have to turn ugly to defend Mississippi? I had to laugh.

Sandi "People who are moderate to left are treated horribly..."

Yes! My point exactly! Nowhere are people more proud of sending young men and women off to die for freedom while at the same time turning the thumbscrews on people, other than themselves, who exercise that freedom.

Sandi, I never for a moment meant to say that everyone in Mississippi is Republican, or stupid, or anything else. I was instead referring to the hurt I experienced there as someone who didn't fit the state's dominant religious, political, or social paradigm. Certainly, Mississippi is far from the most oppressive place in the world, but rural Mississippi especially can be harsh. You and I, I think, are in agreement about that. You might see me as expressing my opinion untactfully, and I would agree with that assessment.

I write from the heart (or as near as I can get); sometimes what comes out is loving and beautiful, and other times it's harsh. I don't write with the intention of hurting anyone, and I am actually quite grieved when I do.

I have thought a great deal about deleting this entry, but that would mean deleting an honest (and very large) part of my experience, and I am most reluctant to do that. By leaving it, I make sweeping generalizations about an entire state, yet this IS my experience of Mississippi AS AN ENTITY.

I love much about Mississippi. I love the native plants; I love the history; I love the beauty of the landscape; and I've loved--and buried--a great many friends and relatives there. I will never be free of Mississippi, and I think it would be to my loss if I were. Yet, to me, the state is somewhat like an abusive parent who nonetheless does much good. This time, I wrote about the bad. In the past, I've written about the good, and I will no doubt do so again.

julie mitchell said...

Hi Snow,
Sounds as if you might be feeling better...hope so?
I picture Mississippi as much like Des Arc, Arkansas where I lived briefly...I felt as though I'd been relocated to another planet...I could barely understand the language....and when they served up squirrel head & dumplings one day for supper I was sure of it.
You're right when you say Oregon is a beautiful state...I have a daughter thinking of moving to Portland and several family members live in Klamath Falls. I just spent a week there and the weather was gorgeous and the people friendly...to my surprise there are two Buddhist churches there.
A friend came down to visit from Eugene and spent a great deal of time trying to talk me into showing/selling my figures at the Oregon Country Fair...Do you attend?
Love your writing as always...julie

Snowbrush said...

Julie, I thought your comment was lost after I approved it, not realizing that it was to this post rather than my most recent one (I judge my life - Part 5). Anyway, a lengthy response awaits you there.

I've never heard of eating squirrel heads, and I hope you won't be insulted if I ask you if there was ANY possibility that your hosts were pulling you leg, as it's just the kind of thing a Southerner would do to someone from another place. Southerners are so often represented as stupid that a lot of them can't resist such attempts at humor.

I'll just go to my recent post, copy my comment, and put it here, so you won't have to go searching. Here it is:

And, finally, Julie. I approved your post, but it's not here--damn. As for your question about the Oregon Country Fair, I've been a couple of times, and that was enough for me, thank you. However, a lot of people love it so much that they go every day, and try to get a permit to stay overnight which is when the party really begins, or so I'm told. It used to be wide open drug-wise and nudity-wise, but it's gotten pretty tame.

It's held in the woods about 12 miles west of town and has been going on for maybe 30 years (I think it started as a Society of Creative Anachronism Faire). It's often hot and always dusty (there being no pavement), but there are a lot of crafspeople and artisans, and the crowds are large. I can't tell you anything about how much you would have to pay or how well you would be apt to do on average.

I JUST spoke to someone who goes, and she said you will almost certainly have to wait one or more years to get a space. She's going to check with someone who has a space, and see if he would share. The OCF website is: http://www.oregoncountryfair.org/

As for three Buddhist churches in Portland, hell, dear, there are at least that many here. I attended one of them last Sunday. It has no monk in residence, but at least two of the others do.

CreekHiker said...

Oh Gosh Snow, you've made me cry! I've been so damned homesick. I thought I managed to get over it with a trip to the Ragin' Cajun. After dinner there, I was resigned that I was just hungry and not homesick.

But I AM! And like you, I don't even know why! No relatives that I really care about there. A few good friends though. But I long to see my childhood home and drive around McComb and Tylertown and Hattiesburg. And this blog just put a stake in my heart!

Snowbrush said...

CreekHiker "I've been so damned homesick."

I don't know if it's exactly homesickness I feel as it is longing to feel that someplace is my home. We own our house here in Oregon, and we've been in this same house for 19 years which is longer than we've (either of us) ever lived in the same house. Still, there's a loneliness here, a feeling that my heart is in two places. The funny thing is that there's really nothing for me to go back to in Mississippi. My parents are dead, and my friends are either dead or gone. Also, I don't feel deeply connected with anyone here. I care for several people, but I also know that we are not an integral part of one another's lives.

Please see my entry for July 14, 2008. It tells of my last trip to the South, which was for a funeral, and was my first trip in years.

Did you know that even your name sounds Southern to me as there are no creeks to hike here and probably none where you are? I remember literally walking McCall Creek, sometimes in the water, sometimes on sand or gravel. Here, the creeks are cold, fast, filled with boulders, and run through steep canyons.