In a Southern state of mind.

I’m writing to you from my new home in North Carolina, where my little brick house is nestled in a quiet neighborhood among the rich green foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. My son and I live so close now, and we’ve seen each other several times in the last week. My former home has been on the market for a week, and I accepted an offer on it Friday night. Although I have many things still to unpack, the pets and I are settling in just fine to our new home.

The kitchen of this home is not unlike the one my grandmother had — white cabinets and wood floors (or LVP, in this case), a kitchen window that looks out in to the back of the house, where the sun sets over the farm, and a small footprint. In fact, when I first set foot in the house, I thought, “No way is my stuff going to fit!” Truly, I’m having to make some further choices about downsizing my things. I’m asking myself about each kitchen appliance as I try to place it. “Do I use this? When is the last time I used it?” If that answer is more than a year, it goes to the donation pile. I’m fortunate, too, that the neighborhood I’m in has recycling and bulk trash pickup. What needs to be tossed out or recycled can easily go to the curb. I don’t need to have a pickup truck to haul anything to the dump.

The scent of the air after a rain here is heavenly, rich and heady, full of promise. The desert would not be for me, though the air there is of a different, lovely quality. No, the greenery and fertile soil is right up my alley. I thought I would have to retire to start living a simpler life, but I have found it without giving up my work. Although I’ve worked from home for the better part of 16 years, there were periods in which I had to commute to an office, stuck in thick traffic, breathing exhaust fumes. It was bad for the body and worse for the soul. Now that more companies are embracing the remote work possibilities, people like me are able to live and work where they want to, not where they have to. This is better for our planet and much better for our souls. It also serves to revitalize small communities around the country. Those of us bringing our money to small towns offer a boon to the local economy, creating a demand for goods and services such as what I’ll be looking for–fencing, a deck, doctors, and other necessities.

Yesterday my son and I ventured out to breakfast and to the open air farmer’s market in uptown Shelby. I brought home some locally grown vegetables and some locally baked sourdough bread. He bought locally roasted coffee. We’re putting our money into our local economy and into the farms that feed us.

My parents were farm kids. Maybe it’s in my blood, the way I love the scent of the farms, the grass, and the trees. Dad moved us to Houston when I was a toddler, but every summer we traveled back “home” to south Georgia. Dad would drive all night to get us there (the whole trip was about 21 hours through areas with no gas stations open after dark and with no fast food restaurants), and once there, I would sprawl across the bed in my grandmother’s front room, with the windows open and the oscillating fan blowing on me, and I would sleep. The voices of my kin drifted in from the living room as from very far away, lulling me to sleep. I would wake up to noises in the small kitchen where my mother and grandmother were preparing a spread that usually included fresh biscuits or hot rolls, fried fish (caught that day), turnip greens with pepper sauce and a thick slab of fatback, corn-on-the-cob, peach cobbler or fried apple tarts, pole beans, and cornbread made in a cast iron skillet. The food was always flavorful and moist. Although the butter and salt and pork might not have been good for us, it was delicious. What is life without a little pleasure in the meals we share?

Yesterday, I came home with a big bag of cherries that I plan to turn into a cherry cobbler. This evening, I’ll cart some food over to my son’s house where we’ll share a meal with his roommate and his roommate’s children. We’re going to grill chicken and make stewed squash and corn-on-the-cob, followed by the cobbler, made special in my little kitchen. I think that would make my mother (and grandmother) very happy.

Peace, Jude

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