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On Tippah County, Mississippi and Boston’s North End

Posted by admin on September 12, 2012 in Books, Travel |

I am sitting here in central Maine thinking about radiant hardwoods that glow like neon in the waning light of evening. Brilliant, possessive reds and oranges and yellows crowd my inner vision, but we are in Maine too early, so the only colors here are summer green and the hinted ends of the maples barely kissed by the cool lips of autumn.

When I last blogged, I promised to be prompt with reflections of our travels, but the travel itself has battered us a bit and our schedule of BRAVO!’s film screenings, although heady and satisfying, have drained us of energy.

My last blog was created in Memphis, Tennessee on August 20, 2012, and since then we have motored east and north approximately 2700 miles over 23 days including a trip to one of my paternal ancestral homes in northern Mississippi where we bought fat red bell peppers from a retired school teacher at the farm market in the parking lot of the old Tippah County courthouse in Ripley and visited with the historical museum director about families with the last names of Adams and Banta and Rodgers.

We spent a day with a Van Dyke-bearded National Park Service Ranger at the Chickamauga Civil War battlefield in northwestern Georgia, just a few miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ranger was a man caught in a love grip with history, and he dramatically sashayed and bent and swayed and delivered other gesticulations about history, life and death on the battlefield.

The heat stayed away as we journeyed east and we were refreshed as we drove through the fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina, recalling books like Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, a story of the Civil War and that dire tale certainly slipped and bobbed in my brain as we cast our eyes on the gorgeous layers of ridges that ran off east and west, the greenery seething with the mists. I recalled, too, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ novel The Yearling about a young boy and his pet deer named Flag. The deer population in the Blue Ridge country is prodigious (as we saw it) and the harsh nature of the epiphany of Rawlings’ story seemed to fit right in with the Civil War milieu that is still so important in the American south of 2012.

In Washington, DC, we stayed with Betty’s cousins Chuck and Donna Dennis and journeyed to Richmond to visit our old friends Lee and Betty Plevney. We attended a Khe Sanh Veterans reunion where we again screened BRAVO! to over 130 enthusiastic viewers. We journeyed to Colonial Williamsburg—a most wonderful place—and toured the Revolutionary War site at Yorktown and the archaeological dig at Jamestown where Virginia’s first settlers managed to survive. Old tales from high school literature about John Rolfe and Captain John Smith and Pocahontas erupted into a time capsule reality as we trod across storied ground by the waters of the wide James River where they lived their lives with osprey and belted kingfishers and fiddler crabs.

Then on to Boston through rural Pennsylvania and New York. We again screened the film and enjoyed a tour of Boston from our wonderful host, Marie Mottola Chalmers, who snaked us through the delightful warrens of the red- bricked North End, redolent with the history of Paul Revere and the Old North Church, Samuel Adams and Faneuil Hall, the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, Peter Agoos’ modern sculpture titled “Art Imbalance.”

Boston Tea Party, Chickamauga, Civil War, Yorktown, Khe Sanh, Boston Massacre; it seems I am encapsulated by war. Is it only me, filled up with a memory of death and mayhem, who lives in the cocoon of war?

We are now in Calais, Maine, pining for the colors of fall. But we are early and the weather is quite balmy and so, it seems, we need to head north. On to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

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