Being southern : reflections on our Deep South Tour, May 2014.
We love our filthy dirty south. Its not a catch phrase or a joke or a random east coast west coast pride battle. The feeling came from an acceptance of home and ancestry and family despite the fact that we are on the road pretty much all the time. The feeling comes from the cicada night songs and spring time deep thunder rolls, from the early spring greening of wild edibles and the way the light shifts through the cracks of old barns at sunrise, from the lilt of the way people talk down here that charms you right to the bone all the way from New Orleans to North Carolina, from the drone of the fiddle to the wild beasts in the cookpot. Its moonshine and mayhem, and all the stuff inbetween….I was taught early on a sense of community and belonging from my parents who were a big part of the dance and music scene in Atlanta and extending on up into various part of Appalachia. Its something Id never take for granted, and the Rising Appalachia project has allowed me to give back and reach out and redefine what it is that Im here for. We joyously visit and delve into communities ALL OVER the world and all over this country, all of which break our hearts open and inspire in unique ways, and this Spring we decided to focus on our own southern regions of the US that we had never visited much before…. We just finished up a 3 and a half week tour through parts of the south, and parts of the deep south (big difference here), in an effort to give love to some new places as well as check out our own understanding of this region beyond the familiar towns and cities we pass through often. There were, as in any tour, highlights and pitfalls…. Powerful connections as well as places where we’d perhaps rather turn our heads and keep driving then stick around. We saw young girls out in parking lots with spray tanning oil on mid day high heat and had some days where food choices were corporate at best and wrapped in more plastic than at all necessary. Some days were spent in long traffic lines on major highways where “Plantation” and ~GOD billboards and strip malls were as vast as the eye could see. I wondered a few times why I was even trying to be an ambassador of this sweet sunny south. Then, as the great balance shows every time, up stepped the champions and warriors of each town and state. We met permaculture liaisons in places where even the name “permaculture” was practically a foreign word. We met environmental advocators in the anti-fracking movement and a woman who was the grand daughter of the judge during Emmett Tills trial in Mississippi, who is now a relentless local voice against racial injustice. We were hosted and gifted by herbalists and healers and teachers and bakers and families who were grounded and rooted in their work loads and purpose in their communities. Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas gave us faith that our culture and our generation IS invested in this shift of consciousness and unity, and that even in places where you’d least expect it…. There are willing and ready worker bee’s getting things done and wanting to connect deeper. And so, amidst the crawfish oils and cornbread plates, between the Mississippi river and the dry hills of Texas, before the wide smiles of Florida and the buck jumps of New Orleans…. I turned around the bend to head back home with yet another moment of grace to the land and the people of the South. It is a pleasure to call you home, and to rally your people and have your people rally us, and to dive into the depths of your seasons and traditions. We can all bloom where we are planted, and turn muddy waters into gold.