Note: This summer I am setting aside marketing, marketing, marketing to ‘See the USA’. My book sales have dropped by 50% at June’s end; but the experiences of the blast furnace of Lubbock, Texas; the music of Nashville; the beauty of the Smokey Mountains have made it worth while. However! This is a testament that a non-marketed book will NOT sell! So, now that I have stated the obvious, I offer the following:
On ‘The Back Porch’ of the Carolina’s
It is summer 2011 and I am sitting on the back porch of my sister-in-law Susan’s home in North Carolina; which is a ritual not unlike sitting on the back porch of Anywhere, USA. Pine needles scatter across the outer deck of their porch and four talisman pine cones point out a haphazard design. It’s taken me and my husband three weeks of driving, hoteling, and reunions to get to this family respite – an unexpected surprise. Susan and her husband, Drew, were scheduled to be in the Great Lakes as we passed through their Carolina hometown. Just a few days ago we realized that they would be flying back home to New Bern from their own summer getaway just as we were passing through town, so a visit was quickly put together and yesterday we drove up their driveway to hugs and welcomes.
Being on Susan and Drew’s screened back porch I am reminded of the love of my life – Louisiana. All the dammed up memories of my life in The Pelican State well up and spill over like this season’s misbehaving Mississippi. The steam bath heat with the sound of thunder rolling across the distant sky is promising a tropical downpour by evening.
How exciting to sit out here waiting patiently for its arrival as the wind rustles through the pines and the heavy branches brush against each other. The birds now caw their warning that storm clouds are gathering. The finches call back and forth to other finches, canopied by the call of Blue Jays. One lone squirrel scratches the ground and moves pine needles around just beyond the grassy edge of the yard. The furry creature seems completely unaware of the Carolina Wrens that loop and swirl in the air just above its head.
The air is filling with that musky smell that permeates everything right before a dramatic storm. And a branch cracks and breaks in the distant woods as the sound of thunder again rolls through the yard without its companion – a bolt of lightning. One without the other seems impotent. What I am waiting for is that thunderous clap that splits the skies wide open, lights the darkness, and silences the scampering wildlife with its stunning show. This rumble, without its sharp bolt of lightning is so empty. And so I return to my memories of Louisiana and wait.
It is the Louisiana of 1963 that calls to me. Having arrived New Orleans at the age of 13 I was charmed by The South and the song, House of the Rising Sun. I was charmed by the inclusive friendliness of Southern Girls; and the ease of the Southern drawl. I was charmed by sarsaparilla and sweet tea, Maison Blanche and ballet class. Like this Carolina back porch of today, our New Orleans back porch faced a thick wooded swamp. It was teeming with alligators and other creatures that could skitter across the lawn and snatch up bad children, according to my mother – who has now departed this Earth. I study an egret standing on the other side of the waterway as it preens its feathers. It uses its beak to pick and peck at its unseen torments. I watch from the comfort of my shaded roost. I’m not going anywhere – neither is the egret. It snaps to attention and holds its pose as another thunderous boom sounds in the distance. The sun is now brightening the back yard, the pine branches are throwing shadows across the deck. Light and shadow challenge each other – as always.
As it nears five o’clock in the early evening a covey of Canada Geese float by. How majestic they look with their black heads and white Roaring Twenties side-set caps. The current carries them past my deck effortlessly. And the wind picks up again making it seem that the geese are the wind’s escort up the waterway.
I’m realizing, as the thunder grows near again in its relentless wax and wane, that it may be another fifty years before I can reach back for the memory of this afternoon – on the back porch of a Southern home. But I hope not.