It has rained for six days, or five, or a hundred, and the earth is shipwrecked. I don't understand why the whole town doesn't just wash away, mudslide down the hill into South Carolina. The backyard is softer than the bottom of the sea. I am from Colorado, where if it rains for more than six minutes we call the police. Everyone is battening down their hatches for two inches of snow, and though it is predicted to clear overnight and be sunny tomorrow, there are rumors that school will be cancelled. What the hell tom-foolery is this? Truly I am a stranger in a strange land.
Bless my heart.
It doesn't happen often, but on more than one occasion since moving here to a state which seems happy to refer to itself as "North Cackalacky" (?), I have had moments where the universe goes quiet, all of it just backdrop, and, like a character in a movie, my own voice-over drops into my head and wonders: What the hell am I doing here? The thought arrives not in anger or despair, but pure wonder. I make choices every day that shape my life into what it is, and then I sit back and stare at it in awe. As if my life was not, in fact, created by my own hand. And perhaps it isn't.
Bless my heart.
Yesterday the rain cleared for a moment, and I put on my pink rainboots and went to tromp the great bayou that was once my backyard. Or the neighbor's property that abuts (ABUTS!) my backyard. We've rescued this dog who is part beagle and part racehorse. She rocketed around me, doing laps along the edges of the field. She used her doggy-snout to toss water into the air. Watching her play eased some of the low grade stress that wears constantly when living in a land so far from your own. It was something I didn't know to expect, the frustrations of all the little things: the inferior and thus infuriating grocery store, site of all my breakdowns, one mass symbol for every little strain about being a western woman in the south. There is a thing people do here that confounds me. They are polite to my face, helping me find the canola oil or refunding me the dollar-fifty that was supposed to come off my ice cream at the register, but didn't. But beneath that pleasant exterior, I get the distinct sense that no one has ever hated anyone as much as this smiling grocery store clerk hates me. They seethe quietly while speaking in pleasant tones. I was not prepared for this. In the west, people are usually either genuinely friendly or genuinely hateful. There are few pretenses at either. This is what I will call the "bless your heart" mentality. Upon moving here, our friends asked those native to Dixie about the rumors we had heard--that people might say one thing but not actually mean it. That the famous phrase is a insult, sort of. Every southerner I heard being asked about it swore up and down it wasn't true. They shook their heads and widened their eyes, promised it was sincere, and I believed them.
Bless my heart.
During that brief break from the rain, I watched Georgia (we're changing her name to Georgia) and thought: six months. That is how long I can live in a place before wishing to move on to someplace else. Even though I love it here, I know here now. I'm sorry to say it, really. I exhaust even myself. Then Georgia (née Ginger) leaped into the bushes and smoked out an entire flock of eastern blue birds, who flew like scattered precious stones up toward the low gray sky. I've never seen so many rainbow-hued things in one single place. For a moment I believed maybe it wasn't going to rain forever. You don't know this because I haven't told you, but blue birds are my own personal emblem of hope.