Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Pelicans in North Carolina

Or maybe not. How many times have I thought I’ve found a home, only to be abandoned by it or have it abandoned by me? More times than I can count. It’s almost a compulsion. I’m a plant that forever pulls itself up by its own roots. A mangrove, maybe. Sending out shoots in one direction or another, then yanking up the old plant as soon as the dirt begins to feel comfortable.

So I’m back in Chattanooga, a town that knows its own, its own of which I am definitely not one. Chattanooga’s the kind of place where there are obituaries that read Ralph Pickett, 99, native of Alabama, lived in Chattanooga 98 years. The kind of place where there’s actual society, with balls and coming-out parties (for marriageable young women, not alternative-lifestyle aficionadoes), like something out of Austen. The kind of place where one must fake a southern accent to avoid discrimination, where yankees are always damn yankees, and mothers shudder to think their children could marry one.

Nothing against the south. I love the south. Its weather, for one thing, is the best in the nation, as is its literature. One could also make a very good case for its food.

Doors are opening for me down here. The one very good piece of news is that I finished a piece on the Appalachian Trail for a Lonely Planet guidebook, and I’m now completing a second so that I can be considered for one of their contracted freelance authors. A dream job for me, to be sure. I’ve enrolled in a graduate-level course down here, my first return to the ivory tower since my departure from it ten years ago, and I’m beginning to seriously consider a Master’s degree. Argh. I know, right? Members of my family can’t seem to escape the magnetic pull of higher education, even though I swore I would always resists.

More good news, as I’m sure everyone is curious to know, is that Secret survived Hurricane Ike unscathed. Nearly unbelievable. It makes me more confident than ever that I left her in the right place. It’s hard for me to imagine a better hurricane hole than French Wells. I have several buyers interested, but we’ll see if they’re able to negotiate me down to a price that I can live with.

I still long for the sunny tropics, especially as summer draws to a close. But life’s not so bad when people shiver as it drops below seventy degrees, I can watch black-tufted titmice (those are birds) out my window, and I spend my days doing yoga and writing fiction. Things could be much, much worse.

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