mississippi goddam

thinking about the post earlier this afternoon about making love with life has got me to thinking about this love affair i’ve had with life over the past few weeks. yeah, i’ve had my moments, such as today’s headache or being irritated by coworkers or being worried about loved ones, but overall, life and i have been on cozy terms.

part of this experience of course has been my recent trip to new orleans. about three weeks ago, at the beginning of that trip, we drove through and spent the night in mississippi. i lived in mississippi in the mid-80s, and as a result of that time, i swore that i would never spend another night there again, unless i had to stop there on the way to new orleans. well, um, that came to pass, and i was actually a bit worried about it. i’ve been to and through the state a few times since i lived there, but had not spent the night in many years. i had friends (who, by the way, have never been to mississippi) express concern for this portion of the trip, and even express derision about my going through the state. however, my concern was not so much for my personal safety per se (although, as a black woman with dreadlocks traveling through the south with a lesbian and an old hippie, maybe it should have been), it was more of a wondering how things had changed since i lived there and if i would find it recongnizable.

we spent that night just north of jackson, and honestly, it was familiar, but only in that way that any interstate exit in any part of the country is familiar. driving through jackson, my main thought was that, wow, i didn’t remember jackson’s skyline being this, um, nonexistent. however, it was as we were traveling south of jackson, on a four-lane highway headed toward the gulf coast, where the beauty of mississippi (and of this world) hit me in a way i never expected.

as we were driving through this forest, i had the overwhelming urge to jump out of the car, and hug each and every tree in it. it was as though the trees and i recognized one another, and i figured out what they knew all along: that we are all made of the same ‘stuff’. (thankfully, my travel mates were unaware of this epiphany.) however, the most interesting thing i found was i felt the pain that the earth felt along with all the trees that had to have been cut down in order to make that very road we were on. i felt the loss of all the individual trees and the life forms that were dependent upon those trees. i felt the pain each tree must have felt, as well as the pain of the earth as a whole, in having those trees removed. i also thought about the toll of human pain in this area of the country, the pain involved with slavery, of the people being treated as less than, much as the trees of the forest were and are treated as less than. yet, in the midst of this pain, i still felt an overwhelming love, a connection to the earth and to the people supported by this earth. i renewed my commitment to help people, one person at a time, see that the earth is as much a living being as we as individuals are, and that we need to learn to treat her with respect and honor (as well continue to learn to treat each other with respect).

mississippi goddam is an awesome song by nina simone, and i can definitely relate to the sentiments she expresses in it. however, i have been blessed my travels through this maligned state. i have no desire to live here ever again, but i am open to learning where i can get it, and i learned a little more about myself and this world because of this experience.

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