GEORGIA Posts

Some Place East of Fort Benning

 

 

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There is this red dirt drive just off the highway, some place east of Fort Benning, Georgia. If you are speeding or lost in dreams yet unrealized, you’ll surely miss it. You might not even notice the sign declaring Floria’s Folk Art Gallery. Or the circle-board painted blue declaring Jesus is Soon to Return. Drive by too quickly and you’ll miss entirely the Letter from Hell.

Back in 2007, the first time I met Floria, there was only a small sign outside the shop. If Floria hadn’t been wearing her signature floral hat and busily working on a project outdoors, I would have missed her then. Thankfully, I have mastered my mama’s technique of stopping on the dime and giving nine-cents change. That first time, I came away from Floria’s with a picture of an African American girl reading a book. It sits in the frame Floria painted atop a bookshelf in my office. It cheers me, that painting does, and serves as a reminder of the places I’ve been and the people I met along the way.

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About Hillbilly Elegy & Those Who Champion Us

 

Photo by Sue Counts

Photo by Sue Counts

I’ve been reading the book that everyone was talking about six months ago – Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It has been touted as an insightful book about Appalachia and more specifically about the people who voted Donald Trump into office.

It’s not really either of those things. When Vance says he’s from Appalachia what he means is that his people are from Kentucky, which is unquestionably Appalachia. But he grew up in Ohio, which to people who are Appalachian, not Appalachia.

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Stories Behind the Story

 

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There was that moment, (you knew there would be one, didn’t you?), when Kimberly Faith Hickman, the insightful and masterful director of MOTHER OF RAIN, took me by the hand after the show and said, “You have to hear this story.”

This was on Saturday, following the Talk Back session, a time when audience members were given opportunity to ask questions of the actors, the director, or Paul Pierce, who adapted the novel for the stage, or of me. I’d never really had a sit-down with the actors or with the director, so I had no idea that sometime during rehearsals that Hickman had shared with the actors the story of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her five children.

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Witnessing the Sacred

 

 

 

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There is this place in Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge, where a person can walk behind the waterfall. Horsetail Falls is one of the most scenic of Oregon’s waterfalls. Not nearly as popular as the grandiose Multnomah Falls, it offers an intimacy the more regal Multnomah lacks.

 

I hiked up there some years back with my daughters, I think, though to tell you the truth, I remember less about who I was with and more about what it felt like, there behind that cool water thundering off that hillside like a thousand wild horses. If I recall correctly (who can trust their memory, really?) I waded right out into that pool of water and let that waterfall spray all over me. Whoever I was with laughed and hollered at me to get back, but I’m crazy like that around water. I can’t resist a good baptism in whatever form it comes – waterfalls, rivers, lakes, or the marble encased ones found in the churches of my upbringing.

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In the Image of God

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My son called me from Winslow, Arizona. It’s one of several stops he’s making this week as he winds his way from Oregon to Georgia. He’s doing the reverse migration that his momma made. Stephan, who has grown up in Oregon, has accepted at job at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village.

Come Thursday, God willing and the Texas creeks don’t rise, I’ll be meeting him in my hometown. There are all kinds of reasons why I still consider Columbus home, even though I’ve lived as long in Oregon as I ever did in Georgia. I’ve spent years trying to understand why I feel like an immigrant to the Pacific Northwest. The simplest truth is that Columbus is the community that helped raise me.

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