–Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Augusta, Georgia, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
The magnolias are blooming in Georgia. And the mimosas, wisteria, Spanish moss. I don’t have to dig all that deep. Everything falls into place the minute I ask. My body is tired; I am holding all this in my brain. The 5th Street Bridge, one of the first Coca-Cola bottling plants, the haunted pillar, Richmond Academy.
Broad Street, one of the widest streets in the United States, and Green Street and Reynolds Street. Walking through Magnolia Cemetery where my great, great aunt is buried near her father who was a soldier for the Confederacy; watching my mother walk down the leaf crackling road with a plucked magnolia in her hand, laughing and smiling and content to be back in the South.
Riding in the Chris Craft along the shores of Clarks Hill Dam. Calling the aunt I haven’t heard from since I was one or two. Hearing her Southern drawl on the other end of the line and knowing she’s related to me, bloodlines, blood kin, though I haven’t seen her in 50 years. It doesn’t matter. Before she hung up, she said she loved me. And I believe her.
My step-dad seems the happiest I have seen him in years. It’s as if he has a new lease on life. I ask the questions, we drive by childhood homes. He calls me Shug and tells me about Audubon Circle and the minute my chubby, two-year-old hands squeezed his cheeks and asked, “Can I call you Daddy?”
Hearing my uncle talk about our ancestors in the Civil War, photographs and relics lining his den, on shelves, and in drawers. Arrowheads and 400 acres of family farmland, and an island near Brunswick that can be traced all the way back to King George the Third; there’s proof on a letter that reads:
GEORGE the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, KING, Defender of the Faith, and fo forth, To All To Whom These Presents Shall Come Greeting: KNOW YE, THAT WE of our Special Grace, certain Knowledge and mere Motion, have given and granted, and by thefe Prefents, for us, our heirs and fucceffuors, DO GIVE AND GRANT unto…
And the letter is signed by the Surveyor General and the Governor in Council and dated April of 1763. Back, back, back. I listen, should not be surprised. All that history and the shape of shovels digging through the mind.
The things I carry are:
a Canon Powershot, an Olympus digital recorder, a trusty wirebound Supergirl notebook, a bag of Sharpies, Dell laptop, LG cell phone, cords to connect and connect and charge, two weeks worth of clothes, a 4 GB memory stick, black Adidas slingpack, camera bag, two sets of bifocals, a rolled family tree, water bottles, maps of Augusta and Georgia and South Carolina, a couple of rabbit fetishes, a lion, a turtle from Wyoming, and questions, yes, all those questions fall from me like curled rain.
I carry the scent of magnolia, the purple of the martin, and the energy of all the ancestors, and I want to say I know what I’m doing, but I don’t. I have faith. I follow my nose and my heart and people seem to open to me. I watch generations before smile down on me, and generations to date, heal and let go. Soft kisses to the cheek and hugs all around. I am astounded every moment.
Tomorrow it is another trip to Clarks Hill Dam to meet my aunt who I found out helped her parents build the house I stayed in after I was born (and had photographed only hours before I called her). And I’ve located Mrs. Juarez but do I really want to spill the beans? Or should I save the story for the meet and greet.
I step across generations of sandy brown pine needles, past homes of Georgia brick. The land is red iron clay and the memories are mine. There is so much to say and too little time. I wanted to get something on the page, anything.
It’s hard to explain what it’s like. All I can say is if you get the chance, go back and ask what you need to know. And write it all down. It is healing. It’s like discovering gold in a deserted mine where you thought the canary had sung her last note. But when you take a chance, and risk dropping down, you find the gleaming vein against a backdrop of emeralds. And somehow you know each line uncovers a rough-cut diamond made from thousands of years of lumpy coal, shining just for you.
Monday, June 4th, 2007