I was emailing thoughts to a friend last evening, ~fmd~, a Big Easy girl, now living in The Big Apple, about my experiences down in Mississippi and how I feel about the great Magnolia State.
Having been coming to Mississippi for the past 27 years as a charitable missions volunteer, I’ve had many interesting experiences, talked with lots of residents, made a lot of friends, and driven through and stopped at so many places here.
And I have to say:
I do love Mississippi, especially the gulf coast! It is quite different from the delta, but I like the delta, too! And also the hills of central and eastern Mississippi. I love the juke joints and blues houses of Clarksdale, I love the red and white blooms on the cotton plants in late summer, I love the town squares in Philadelphia, Holly Springs, Lexington and so many other towns in Mississippi, I love the riverfront and old downtown in Vicksburg, the Washeteria along the tracks in Itta Bena, I love eating fried shrimp from the railroad man in Tchula who cooks out of the back of his old pickup truck near the Tchula Hardware store, I love the catfish ponds near Yazoo City, Belzoni and Mound Bayou, I really love the Nachez Trace, I don’t love the humidity in Mississippi in July and August, and I don’t love the casinos and huge hotels of north Tunica, though, that caused the price of trailer rents for struggling local folks to go from $100 a month, up to $500 a month, among other negative things, after gambling was approved and came in there. All said, though, Mississippi has a lot going for it.
People from out of the area often ask, “Why would people want to live along the gulf coast, where the threat of hurricanes is so large,” and the chance of losing everything in one, comes along each and every summer, starting June 1st – the annual start of the hurricane season.
To residents here, it’s really very simple.
This is home.
Just as home is to those Americans choosing to live along rivers that can flood, northern areas that can have severe cold and heavy snow, any area that can have tornadoes, folks along or near areas subject to earthquakes, and on and on…
This is home.
And when calamity strikes, like most families all over the country, they will endeavor to rebuild, by themselves, and, with others who will come to help.
Having the opportunity to help with rebuilding, is a real privilege. I’m convinced that the helpers get more out of the process, in terms of feelings of pride and satisfaction. At least for me, that’s how it is.
The Gulf Coast seems to be a special area in itself, more worldly, if you will, than the rest of Mississippi. It has, among other things, the shrimp and oyster boat fleets, massive ship builders, so many fine restaurants and seafood eating establishments (MUDBUGS, YEAH!), the Hwy 90 beach road, the Stennis Space Center, fine gulf and bayou fishing, miles and miles of beautiful beaches, huge, beautiful ‘Live Oaks’ by the hundreds of thousands, gnats by the gazillions, in the spring – ‘spring breakers’ and ‘alternative spring breakers,’ by the thousands, and a resilient human spirit among its residents that defies all efforts to crush it – Thank you very much, Hurricane Katrina.
The area and the people in it, along with caring volunteers from outside, are struggling hard to rebuild the gulf coast. And, it is happening, albeit, slower than some would like, but faster than many thought was possible. Lots of new friends made. Lots of lives changed.
Encouragement, spirit renewal, hope, love.