Part of the reason I’ve been so quiet these last few weeks is due to a trip I took down to Georgia at the end of February. Much of February was spent getting back to work at my new job, dealing with the anniversary of a trying time in my life, readjusting to new social dynamics between myself and friends/acquaintances, and preparing for this trip.
Savannah is a place I visited when I was younger, sometime in middle school. I went there with my Girl Scout troop to visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the organization. We took a bus down from northern Illinois to the eastern coast of Georgia. It’s a long trip, about fifteen hours straight, if my memory serves correctly.
This year, I only had to drive through Virginia and the Carolinas to get to the city. The 2014 convention for the International English Honor Society took place there this year and I had been looking forward to this over a year. Not just a vacation for both me and The Boyfriend but the chance to, once again, geek out over literature with current English majors and fellow alumni? Sign me up ASAP.
I remember when I visited Savannah the first time. Most of my memory is clouded by reminiscences of singing on the bus with my fellow Scouts and listening to a new CD that a friend had gotten me onto. (Yes, still CDs then.) I remember visiting a candy shop and watching everyone else in my troop get excited over the various flavors of salt water taffy, something I didn’t and still do not enjoy. This year, I actually stumbled upon the shop again, recognizing it by the heavy prevalence of Coke and the fact that it took up approximately four store fronts. (If you ever get to Savannah, definitely check out the candy kitchen on River Street. They have caramel apples the size of your head and veritable tons of salt water taffy that they make in the shop – and you can watch them do it.)
But what gets me the most about the city, and did the last time, too, is the Gothic beauty of it. With its numerous squares and the dusky green Spanish moss that hangs everywhere, I can’t help but get a familiar stirring in my gut, the one that reflects a sense of sacredness whenever I get near historical landmarks or beautiful places. Truthfully, though, it’s the Spanish moss that gets me every time with its spiny tendrils hanging low and the tiny ferns that grow along tree branches everywhere. But what hit me most about this visit was the shock I got when realizing that they allow the trees to grow over the roads in Savannah.
Here in northern Virginia, I watch every spring as they chop thick branches from trees all over in order to better accommodate traffic and cars, generally. By the mall closest to us, they’ve hacked the trees to a state where they look like stubby relics of what they used to be. The trees across the street are the same way, the underbrush cut back from the sidewalk, despite not infringing at all upon walkers and bikers, for whatever reason. But down in Savannah, I walked along Bay Street and commented repeatedly on this observation, that the trees grew outward and bridged over the roads while semi trailers roared down the streets. It was so baffling to me after having walked out so many mornings to find them, once again, chopping branches off the trees around my building, as I did this morning. Baffling but precious and valued in a heart-wrenching way. (Trees are, after all, sacred to me.)
Most of the days we were down there, I sat in on paper readings and roundtables about literature. I listened to more than one panel about fairy tales and mythology as this conference is one of the rare times that I actually get to engage with others interested in the topic on an academic and nerd-y level. I even discovered that one of the women I spoke to regularly there was also Pagan and a nature spiritualist, something that pleased me greatly. Another woman spoke on her interest in Celtic Paganism as it coincides with her research for a paper she’s working on. It was pleasant to see and talk to such folks, but reminded me that it is very rare for Pagans to be “out” in the English and literary fields. If things come to pass properly, I hope to hold my own panel at one of the next two conventions about studying as a non-Christian English major, in order to open the floor up to those who follow other religious paths – or no path at all.