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.