I have rested today. And reacquainted myself with an old friend.
I was able to sit down in a comfortable chair and open a book and read for the simple joy of it for the first time in a long time. Perhaps the book itself has more to do with the feeling of satisfaction the afternoon has given me.
I read The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. I hadn’t realized until today how utterly disconnected from the South I have become. The described smells and sounds, the cadence of the language. All familiar, all comforting. Camelias in the spring, magnolia blooms in the summer; rich, dark earth freshly plowed and recently rained upon. Climbing ancient vines that embrace equally ancient oaks; vines as thick as my leg where they are rooted to the ground, securely guarded by the knarled roots of the old oak.
It saddens me, though. All I can see when I think of down home now is the crushing swell of people. Houses, sub-divisions, strip malls are everywhere. What was once the middle of nowhere is now the skirtings of urban life.
When I was a child we’d travel to Mississippi to visit my Dad’s family. Aunts and uncles, cousins, first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins twice removed. The county is full of relatives. And back then full was somewhat relative. My grandmother would cook Sunday dinner and I can still remember the taste of the creamed corn she’d make. I can feel it and taste it in my mouth, and so when I make mine now it isn’t from a recipe, it’s from this physical memory.
We’d clamber into the back of my Uncle’s old, battered GMC pick-up truck and head to the store. The treat in this wasn’t just the hot smell of old oil spilt onto the wooden bed, no, we’d always get a Coke or a Barq’s at the store. When I was very, very little we’d go to a small country store owned by another Uncle. I remember giant wheels of cheese sealed with red wax. The cheese was sold by the pound in triangular chunks. Sometimes we’d be given a piece still in the wax. There was a such a thrill in peeling off the bright red wax backed in gauzy cheesecloth and eating the sharp, tangy cheese.
My roommate has arrived home and turned on the TV and broken my reverie. The canned sounds coming through the wall have reminded me of my earlier irritation. Our apartment is right on a fairly busy road and not 50′ from the railroad tracks. All day I’ve heard nothing but the sounds of passing cars and the thunderous pounding of passing trains. And today I’m in dire need of tranquility. The passing cars, the whirring of their tires on the pavement–it’s been like sandpaper across raw nerves, an iron shaft piercing my temples.
We haven’t gotten the thunderous downpours that were predicted for today, perhaps I’ll roll the scooter out and seek solace in the countryside before dark. The wind across my helmet can be a soothing hush, settling my thoughts and blocking out my vexation.