Mississippi is calling

Ronda Rich's picture

Mississippi was calling my name the other day, beckoning me softly to pay a visit to the land that often comforts me.

I cannot explain why I, a child of the North Georgia mountains, feel so drawn toward the soil that begins on the Gulf Coast then runs proudly and strongly through the Delta. I was sipping coffee in my office, gazing out the French doors at the morning rain that fell on our thirsty ground and admiring the beauty of the trees, hills, river and distant windmill.

Perhaps that’s it: word association. When I admire nature’s beauty, my thoughts ripple over to Mississippi and all the beauty I have seen there. The Natchez Trail. Oxford and Roan Oaks. Those simple country roads lined with majestic trees that lead from I-55 to Yazoo City. Those magnolias that greet you when you cross the state line. Downtown Meridian and that beautiful old Opry House that the town’s folks have lovingly restored. Biloxi and Gulfport which, determinedly, have resurrected themselves from the ashes.

Where I have found beauty, I have always discovered peace. And that is what I feel when I’m in the Magnolia State.

It is a simple life I often find in Mississippi, the kind that we all crave. A life where the highways aren’t overcrowded, beautiful churches are crammed together in downtown areas and neighbors are just that – neighbors.

I love the smell of the South that hangs in the Mississippi air for I have smelled it strongly in Natchez, Vicksburg and Hattiesburg and inhaled it deeply in Olive Branch, Starkville and Tupelo. What does it smell like? you might ask. It smells like magnolias mixed with hospitality and kindness.

The stories I find in Mississippi captivate me. They talk long of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Archie Manning, for literature and football are of equal importance in that state where passion rules all they do.

In Clarksdale, I once sat with a friend on a swing outside the hardware store. As dusk fell on that summer’s eve, we talked about the quiet serenity of that dusty town. A stranger walking by, stopped, dropped down on another swing and joined our conversation.

He talked about award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, who grew up “just a piece up the road” but had come home to live and opened two businesses – a top-rated restaurant and the blues club, Ground Zero – to help revitalize his hometown.

That’s another about Mississippians: They never forget their home land. Faith Hill regularly goes back and launched an effort to improve literacy while Sela Ward returned to her hometown of Meridian to open an orphanage and to help restore the downtown Opry House.

Sela, in fact, wrote one of my favorite books called “Homesick.” In this lovely memoir, the two-time Emmy-award winning actress looks back on her Mississippi upbringing and a longing to return to that life.

On the other hand, Julia Roberts left Georgia and never looked back. Why, most folks don’t even know she was raised in a small town outside of Atlanta. She’s committed what Southerners consider to be the worse sin of all: She got above her raising.

It says a lot for the place itself, I think, that folks who traipse off and become famous, are determined to come back and use their celebrity to help make it stronger.

But here’s probably the real reason I’ve got a hankering to go to Mississippi: I’m working on a new book and I have always found that my words are prettier and more inspired during and after a visit to Mississippi.

Come to think about it – that’s plenty enough of a reason to go right now. I knew that if I thought long enough, I’d come up with a good reason.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]

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Submitted by Barb on Sun, 01/18/2009 - 1:58pm.

Well, I am from Alabama and have lived in the ATL area for 20 years. I visited my brother in MS recently and it was like going home. The folks there actually speak to you while shopping (here I get those looks) and you can make new friends everywhere. To its detriment the Atlanta area has lost a lot of its Southern graciousness although there are still a number of us here. For the person who said Ms Rich should move to MS, perhaps you should visit Mississippi and then you will know what we are talking about (and what you are trying to comment about).

Submitted by mysteryman on Sun, 01/18/2009 - 2:12pm.

If you choose to stay here you do so at will, that same road that brought you here, is still open to take you out of here, so please feel free to leave at any time. I am so tired of some of the commentary, where everything is fine and dandy, while the world around us crumbles, what are yall smoking, how bout come on down to earth, for a while and get involved in your community and stop dreaming or worrying about communities hundreds of miles away for i emplore you that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, get real people they have the same problems that we do and people struggle to make it everyday...BLESS

Submitted by mysteryman on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 9:30pm.

And stay there...since you are so fond of it, and enjoy a warm glass of green tea..since everything is so perfect in your world...NYCe

Submitted by AtHomeGym on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:03pm.

Besides all those other things, they've got a Govenor who actually governs like a real Conservative should.

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