Mississippi, Day 1: I am, as those of you who regularly read this are well aware of by now, not a particularly – or even any, really – spiritual or mystical sort of person. Yet there are places in the world where for no reason that I can quite fully put my finger on I simply feel at home, at peace, comfortable, engaged. Mississippi – to be specific the Delta and the Hill Country – is one of them. (Indonesia is one of the others, but I’ve already blathered about that earlier this year.)
Mississippi rolled into my mind over the years. My first association, as a child, was with the name. Thanks to the river, thanks to Mark Twain I’ve always unconsciously associated the place with travel and flow and adventure.
Then, as with so many of us who grew up in the 1960s the associations turned terrible – the scene of some of the most brutal battles of the Civil Rights Movement, a place that seemed alien and scary, primitive.
But at about the same time that was happening, I discovered the blues; music born of the struggles and torment, the strength and humor and intellect of the place and time it came from. Music that muscles its way out of the blood and sweat stained soil of this place, filling the air with ghosts and history and a culture that somehow comes across as triumphant in spite of the wretchedness and misery that created it, that made it somehow possible. And a culture that has informed and transformed much of all the other culture that I’ve been deeply affected by throughout my life. The blues, or something a whole lot like them – at least their sensibility - is part of nearly every book, song, movie, artwork, etc. that has reached far inside me and made me feel deeply.
And the people I meet have been almost universally friendly, welcoming, pleased to have someone visiting their state, their town, their farm who is in return friendly and genuinely interested.
Then there’s the light. Literally. Throughout the day, but most dramatically during the long evenings, the light here is palpable. It gives dimension to what could be a flat, nearly barren landscape. It is a photographer’s dream.
So I’m going to shut up right now and post some pictures from yesterday. I won’t even tell you what they are other than that they are roughly in the order I shot them, from the Hill Country around Holly Springs (lunch at Phillip's Grocery and an interesting conversation with a man selling the Nation of Islam's newspaper) to Greenville in the Delta and my favorite steak place in the world for dinner. There will be more today.