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Back in ‘Bama

at the lake
This is the actual lake where I am writing my actual book. It’s truly going now. I am finding the voice. It helps that it is 1982 here. Lydia says I am wrong. She says it is feels more pre-1978. Maybe, yeah. This is the American South where I came of age. It still exists.

There are meth houses with rusted metal Confederate flags planted in the yard. A BEWARE OF DOG sign advertises the inevitable pit bull. He is always chained to the porch. He has a pendulous ball sack and an alligator mouth. Just down the road we come upon a cluster of tidy, vinyl sided Mee-maw houses. One has a pansy bed. One has heart-shaped cut outs on the shutters. You KNOW that inside that one, someone is making jam. YOU KNOW.

It is beautiful and full of nature. We have seen geese (6), fat fuzzy bees (2), a fishy splash that may have been a turtle(1), a shadow that may have been a deer (1), entitled ducks(3, all mallards), and we have heard but not seen sex-obsessed springtime perverted frogs (Umpty). The murderous sex cannibal count is still at 0. SO FAR.

The ducks are irked because I am off grains and have no bread. They cluster around the dock, making disapproving tutting chuckle-y sounds low in their throats. I like the musical duck-muttering, though if I spoke duck I am pretty sure they would be calling horrifying curses down upon my breadless house, yea unto the seventh generation.

Me: Maybe we should give them some lunchmeat.

Lydia: Would they eat that?

Me: Ducks are omnivores, I am pretty sure. I feel like they eat bugs and minnows and such. Once at a duck pond in Atlanta, I saw a duck sidle all innocent toward a picnic and then run off with a piece of fried chicken, but it upset me.

Lydia: Yeah. I was thinking we could give them the fat off our rotisserie chicken, but then that upset me, too.

Me: It’s a little too cannibal-y.

What if we fed the ducks the chicken skin, I am thinking, and one of them LIKED it. What if one of them…OVER-liked it. He might look at his relations and make the same connection Bagel made between the wildlife of my yard and That-Which-is-Delicious. He would begin preying on the other ducks, unable to help himself. What if he ate HIS BEST FRIEND? WHAT IF HE ATE HIS MOTHER? He would be the saddest, sorriest duck cannibal in Alabama. I don’t want to carry that, you know?

We put the chicken skin in the trash.

ASIDE TO YOU I SAY: I know I am blogging a lot about cannibalism and other instances of eating inappropriate things, Oh my Best Beloveds, but I am on a new food regimen trying to create for myself something like a immune system. I am HUNGRY with this specific cookie-wanting HOLLOWNESS that all this God-forsaken, blighted #&^&$)#&*@@_#ing FRUIT I am poking down gullet is not going to fill.

My LORD, but I love this state. This LANDSCAPE! The greens of Alabama are the greenest and most lovely greens. The dirt is black with old blood, it smells rotty and loamy and feels like crumbled velvet in my hands. It almost makes me want to garden, this Alabama dirt, and you know I hate gardening. Gardens are where they keep the bugs.

But this land makes me want to till. I want to dig and gauge and turn this rot that makes the lushness rise up.
Every time I come here I know that I am home, but I could never live here. I would need SO much therapy. Rural Alabama is the beating heart of my ambivalence about my homeland. When I come here, I am inside a double pulse of love and despair.

It happens so fast. Yesterday we pulled into this gravel drive. I got out of the car and breathed in, and it started. Later, I paused while unloading the car. I knelt and put my fingers in this dirt, and I knew —I still know — that the book is here, both in the decay and the green smell of new things rising.

13 comments to Back in ‘Bama

  • Holly Gault

    Flourless peanut butter cookies: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/gluten-free-peanut-butter-cookies
    You can also use almond butter or almond flour, but you may have to adjust the egg to nut ratio. Also do not use brown sugar as they will not work.

  • Therese

    I lovelovelove the music in your writerly voice. You are a miracle. Carry on!

  • Bernice

    Beautiful!… all of it!

  • JenniferG

    It is magic how you can go from cannibal-ducks to absolute poetry about Alabama in one post! I look forward to this book you are pulling out of the Alabama soil.

  • I am living at the lake vicariously thru you. Sending lots of non-cannibalistic liquor love.

  • Linda

    The infamous THEY are telling us that we hurt our waterfowl by feeding them bread. We should feed them oatmeal. I am assuming that they mean uncooked oatmeal but ya never know.

  • I hear your voice when I read this post. Can’t wait to hear the book. 🙂

  • Jessica (the celt)

    You almost made me forget in the prosody of your last lines, but the cannibal-duck imagery immediately made me sing to myself, “Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may have et his poor mother…” Imagine how the duck feels when a human turns him against his family and friends?!

  • I hear the gravel. I smell the rich, cool, loamy damp earth. I am headed to my own Alabama tomorrow. It is good. This post sings.

  • Ranger S.

    Don’t threaten us with quitting. Pity those of us who lurk and wait for your next post, who check the feed and turn away disappointed when there is no new entry, we might believe you – unto despair.

    You need not wonder whether your voice is changing. Think of it as an elevated form of puberty: just another stage of life. Heh.

  • J Myers

    Ducks don’t know what’s good for them. For example, bread. They love to scarf it down but it does little to nourish them. On the OTHER hand, if you are currently eating lots of fruit, I read that grapes, cut in half, are a great (and more nourishing) duck treat. 🙂

  • ebethnyc

    I am officially addicted to Facebook; I automatically reach for the Like button to concur w/previous comments and I desperately want to share (w/the lazy ease of another “button”) your post w/ friends.

    This photo, but more so, your words, make me fantasize about an “authentic” life in The South (whatever the hey that means). Small towns w/stores that still sell physical books and “colorful” but non-murderous cannibaly characters… can’t wait to read this dirt smelling next book. Until then, I might have to satisfy myself w/ Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer which is also ripe (and fecund? could I actually be using that in an appropriate context??) w/such a sense of place.

    Thank you, Joshilyn.

  • Patti Mullinax

    Is that Weiss Lake? That is a special place where 1982 still exists.