Georgia has varied natural habitats, and I’ve been in a few this last week. It’s like life. We find ourselves in different environments. Some feel good. Some don’t. And certain places help make us who we are.
I grew up outside Savannah, so seeing Spanish moss swaying from water oak and live oak limbs feels like home. “General James Oglethorpe” is a familiar name and title. It seems natural to me for cities to be laid out on a grid with squares interspersed. At this particular point of my life, I appreciate the benches in those squares for when I need to sit and rest. And I find the various monuments interesting for their history. When I was a child, history wasn’t very interesting at all. Even though I was surrounded by it. Perhaps because I was surrounded by it.
And I am used to there being churches on the squares, even Lutheran churches. Yes, in the South – not only in Minnesota. Old Lutheran church buildings with older congregations. The first Lutheran congregations go back to just after the British arrival in 1733 when my ancestors, the Salzburg Lutherans, came a year later. Savannah has lots of churches on Bull Street, on the main squares, starting with Episcopal then Lutheran, Presbyterian, another Episcopal, a Jewish synagogue – with a Roman Catholic cathedral and a big Methodist Church thrown in on non-Bull Street squares. I realized a few years ago that in towns and cities, you can tell which denominations were founders (and the “power” churches) when you walk down the main street and see which churches are there.
It was a rainy Monday in Savannah when I took a walk to get lunch on Broughton Street. That was the shopping street when I was a child. That’s where my parents bought me clothes at Asher’s and shoes at Globe Shoe Company. And where we had a sandwich and orange drink at Tanner’s and stood to eat because they only had counters, no seats. Now Broughton Street has upscale and specialty stores, lots of restaurants, and a Starbucks on the corner of Bull Street. For me Savannah is familiar, but it and I have changed. I think both of us have found ourselves in the past couple of decades, both have embraced what makes us unique.
Tuesday evening I drove out to Tybee Island for dinner with friends. Tybee has its own uniqueness, but that’s another post topic. The sunset drive back into town was especially beautiful. And poignant, because this was my last evening of this trip. Those coastal environments feel good to me because they’re a part of my foundation. But these mountains here are my home. At least for now. I made the drive back on Wednesday.
I had a “welcome home to the mountains” from a hawk when I was a few miles from Chickamauga. It swooped down from the south within 30 feet of my car, flew in front of me for a few seconds, then swooped back to the south and over a field, out of sight. If you’ve read my Northeast trip post about the church bell in Newington, New Hampshire, you know the hawk’s significance for me. This mountain habitat is a good one for me now. I’ve lived in this community for 29 years, and I know lots of people here. I run into former students everywhere. I have friends in Chattanooga and all over Northwest Georgia. The mountains have become a part of my heart. And I like that. There’s something to be said for being a part of a place for years and years. You know it and its people well. This environment has nourished me through cancer treatments. And now I’m coming out on the other side, these now-hazy-with-summer mountains and ridges supporting me.
I’m grateful to have two Georgia habitats as a part of who I was and who I am. Coastal plain and mountains and ridges are in my DNA. As are the people of those places. Generations-deep roots in one place. The ones I’ve put down myself in the other. Both good. Both a part of me.